Read “Lederer on Language” every Saturday in the San Diego Union Tribune and on this site.
Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.

One of my favorite newspaper corrections reads: “It was incorrectly reported last Friday that today is T-shirt Appreciation Week. It is actually Teacher Appreciation Week.”

Teachers change the world one child at a time, yet they are sorely unappreciated.

In 1985, the National Education Association and National Parent Teacher Association set aside the first full week in May as a time to honor teachers and show respect for their profession. In fact, every day should be devoted to teacher appreciation and made a time to recognize members of the most unheralded, labor-intensive, multitasking, exhausting, income-challenged and rewarding of all professions.

During the presidency of Dwight David Eisenhower, James Michener, author of “Hawaii,” “The Source” and other mega-sellers, was invited to a celebrity dinner at the White House. In a letter Michener declined to attend: “Dear Mr. President: I received your invitation three days after I had agreed to speak a few words at a dinner honoring the wonderful high school teacher who taught me how to write. I know you will not miss me at your dinner, but she might at hers.”

A week later, Michener received a handwritten reply from the understanding Ike: “In his lifetime a man lives under 15 or 16 presidents, but a really

fine teacher comes into his life but rarely. Go and speak at your teacher’s dinner.”

Teaching is the highest calling. Parents entrust their most precious treasures to teachers. Almost everybody who is anybody was taught to be somebody by a teacher. Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions.

America is a nation of teachers: There are more than 5 million teachers in the United States. This includes about 3.7 million pre-kindergarten to 12th-grade public school teachers, about 400,000 private school teachers and about 1,670,000 postsecondary professors and instructors.

Teachers are not only a populous group. They change lives one lesson at a time. In “What the Dog Saw,” Malcolm Gladwell states, “Teacher effects dwarf school effects: your child is actually better off in a bad school with an excellent teacher than in an excellent school with a bad teacher.” Study

after study shows that great teaching is the most important booster of student achievement — of larger consequence than class size, money spent, the school building and quality of textbooks.

I believe that an apple lasts a short time in the hands of a teacher, but a bit of wisdom lasts a lifetime in the mind and heart of a student.

I believe that when you speak, your words echo across the room, but when you teach, your words echo across the ages. Or, as Henry Adams, the grandson and great-grandson of presidents, put it: “A teacher affects eternity. No one can tell where his influence stops.”

I believe that teachers deserve the nice things people say about them. Having been an English teacher (an inmate in the House of Correction) for 27 years,

I’m biased of course. To George Bernard Shaw’s mean sneer, “He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches,” I would oppose Lee Iacocca’s reverential “In a truly rational world, the best of us would be teachers, and the rest of us would do something else.” Or I would quote Shaw himself: “To me the sole hope of human salvation lies in teaching.”

Blessed be the teachers. Harmonies of scholars, mentors, counselors, coaches, cheerleaders, traffic controllers, judges, sculptors, artists, interior decorators, janitors, nurses, baby sitters, comedians, clowns, tightrope walkers, acrobats and jugglers, they march in the company of secular saints. May their tribe increase and thrive.

Richard Lederer will be performing his one-man show, “The Lighter Side of Language,” at Coronado Playhouse on Saturday, May 9, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, May 10, at 2 p.m. For information, call 619-435-4856.