• Vlatka Butkovic

Do You Remember Why?

Updated: Jun 15, 2019

- Kids learn from the teachers they love.

Rita Pierson, Every kid needs a champion, TEDTalk



Do you remember the moment that made it clear being a teacher was not your job but your calling?

I am teachers' daughter, a teacher's and a principal's granddaughter, most of my father's family spent their lives either in a school or at a University.

Our coffee table in the living room was always stashed with exams, units plans and written assignments. Sometimes, my mom who was an English as a second language teacher would take me with her to the classes. I remember the desk packed with markers and crayons brought for me by her students, competing to bring the most things for drawing to Teacher Vlatka's daughter. I remember the magic of the talks with them during the breaks and the happy and relaxed ways they'd talk to my mom.



Every once in a while a special day would happen, a day that always felt like a holiday, when my dad would take me to his school. His classes were a mixture of laughter and serious work and it looked like magic to me. One word from him and the entire class, the A students and the troublemakers worked like a clock, engaged and connected, as if members of a special club.


The first time I truly understood the influence they had on the lives of their students in over 30 years was when my dad stayed at home to get well after a heart attack. I remember he was lying in the living room, the house was quiet until we heard noise coming from the street. One by one classes of his students gathered in front of our house and sang for him and called his name. It turned out that the entire school was worried about their favourite teacher and no one could stop those kids from organising, walking to our house and singing to wish him welcome back from hospital. It is hard to say what had greater impact on me: the street packed with students or my dad with his eyes filled with tears on the sofa, touched by their gesture. He went back to teaching few months later and taught Geography and History for the following 15 years. On the day of his retirement he forbid any farewell gifts, explaining he was only doing his job the way he thought it should have been done. His students were, make no mistake, the best students in Geography and History once they went to high school.


The second time I realised that being a teacher is a calling and not a job was when my mom got sick at the age of 72, almost 20 years after she had retired. During 35 years of her work, not one child that had and A in ESL failed enrolment exam for the top language high school in Zagreb. During the three months of her illness, people I didn't know names of would approach me in the street with hope that the news they had heard weren't true. Deeply touched, they were telling me stories about how she was the person who had determined their path, got them out of troubles, found job for them, saved them from their certain poor destiny in a family of neglecting parents... My kids are growing up proud of their grandma and grandpa. My kids, now teenagers, are my reminder of the importance of my role in my students' lives.


This calling snuck on me, silently and permanently. I am forever a teacher a


Guide the students. Help the parents. Be passionate about the best job in the world.


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© 2019 by Vlatka Butkovic