The Power of a Good Teacher
My daughter recently started preschool and because of this, I have been giving a lot of thought to the fact that she has now started a new phase of her life that will last for about the next 20 years – where teachers will sadly be spending more time with her than I will.
Even though I am in my 30s, I clearly remember my first day of Kindergarten, and what my teacher was wearing. She was very tall and had on a long A-frame, baby blue skirt and a white top. I can still see and smell the inside of the small Catholic school where I attended grades K – 6.
Throughout my education, there were teachers I LOVED and teachers I could not stand. I rarely felt indifferent about a teacher and how I felt about them was ALWAYS reflected in my grades. If I didn’t like someone, it was all over – regardless of the subject matter. Fortunately, there was only one teacher that I didn’t like. And looking back on it, I really don’t think she liked me either. That was my sophomore year of high school, and I nearly failed civics class that year because of it. And honestly, it took me a while to make up for the lack of knowledge I had about how our laws are passed, etc. She turned me off to that subject in a way that is actually quite impressive!
But then there were the great teachers; the ones whose lessons I can easily recall when the subject matter in front of me is relevant. There was my history teacher in high school who explained the civil war and the civil rights movement in a way that I not only understood, but that made me care. I remember I never wanted to do less than my best in her class because I didn’t want to disappoint her.
I’ll never forget my high school physics teacher who is now a good friend of mine. She refused to accept that I was bad at math and science. Refused with a smile, but refused nonetheless. She never moved on to a new concept or a new lesson without explaining the old one in several different ways first. “Okay – well try to look at it this way…” she would say, drawing another diagram on the board. I may not be able to recall the definition of velocity off the top of my head – but I will never forget the value of looking at something from a different point of view.
But really, there is one teacher in particular who I think about every single time I sit down to write - and that is my 8th grade writing teacher. Oh, how I loved her and her boundless energy. I can still see the little student desk she positioned next to her teacher’s desk where we would come up for a one on one consultation. She would make suggestions on our latest assignments, giving us a chance to revise and improve our work until we were both pleased with it. It was there, in that 8th grade classroom, that I learned that writing was a process, and that no matter what – it was a way to communicate. More than 20 years later, whenever I have writer’s block – I go back to the basics and I can hear the words, “Write to communicate” in my head.
Those basics of caring about what I am working on, looking at something from a different angle and turning to writing when I need to express myself all came from my teachers. And I can apply each one of them, in their own way to my professional life. When I sit back and think about it – I am actually quite excited for my daughter to come to know the teachers that will make a huge difference in her life.