“Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.” John F. Kennedy
There is among us a group of individuals who hold the future in their hands. They mold the present into what will one day become our past. Few are willing to take on such an awesome task, such a mighty responsibility. We call those few teachers.
Teachers become a part of every student they reach out to. They leave an imprint that remains with them their whole life through. There are many teachers whose lessons still resonate within me and I still go back to those memories every now and then and gain strength from them.
I remember the names of some, can recall the faces of few, but the ones I remember most are often faceless and nameless in my mind’s eye, for they have become something more than a faded memory to me. Those teachers did more than simply teach.
They grasped for the potential they saw within me. They gently pushed me toward success and I knew without a doubt they were pleased when I achieved it, I knew they still had faith in me when I did not. They incorporated values, pride in oneself and good work ethics into everything they tried to teach. They gave boost to low self-esteem, a pat on the back and a smile for every effort made.
Unfortunately, I remember all too well teachers that approached each day with the unspoken expectation that their students would fail. Too many of their students did fail; they failed to learn from a teacher who failed to teach. I do suppose in some small way I learned something from those teachers. I learned lack of enthusiasm and empathy would only lead to an end I did not desire.
“I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet strange, I am ungrateful to those teachers.” Kahlil Gibran
I remember teachers who thought sarcasm and ridicule would teach. I remember teachers who lectured and yelled. I remember teachers who told students they would never amount to anything. I wonder if they ever did.
“Do not train children to learn by force and harshness, but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the particular bent of the genius of each.” Plato
I have fond memories of teachers who taught with kindness and understanding. I remember teachers who said good job and nice try. I remember teachers who turned a failing grade into the opportunity to learn. I remember teachers who told their students they could do anything if they tried. I imagine many of their students were able to reach out and touch the stars.
“The job of a teacher is to teach students to see the vitality in themselves.” Joseph Campbell
Teachers are one of our greatest resources. They do not always receive the gratitude, the accolades and the credit they deserve.
Children are another of our greatest resources. They do not always receive the praise, the attention and the credit they deserve.
Teachers are human. They have bad days and buttons that can be pushed. Some days, they may not want to be where they must be.
Children are human. They too have bad days and buttons that can be pushed. Some days, they may not want to be where they must be.
So many of us were inspired to become who we are because of the role one good teacher played in our life. I became a writer because a teacher believed in me. She showed me a path I’d not known existed. Though neither of us knew where it would lead, she pointed out the possibilities, she help me envision what might lay in wait for me. I am still on that path and in some small way she is right alongside me.
A teacher must be on a continual quest for knowledge else they cannot guide and teach and inspire. A teacher must learn to adapt in a changing world. They cannot teach today’s children effectively if their methods are cemented in ways of the past. They must maintain the core elements of their curriculum, yet have the ability to incorporate them in different ways for different children.
“You can’t direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails.” Anonymous
A teacher must remember each student is an individual. Not every student is equal. They all learn differently. They all act and react differently. Some have disabilities, some are gifted and some are right there in the middle. Some require a strict approach, some require a sensitive one. Some need a bit of both. Not every student is equal.
“There is nothing more unequal that they equal treatment of unequal people. ” Attributed to Thomas Jefferson
A teacher must recognize the uniqueness of each student, seek out their strengths, their talents and passions as well as their weaknesses.
“Expecting all children the same age to learn from the same materials is like expecting all children of the same age to wear the same size clothing.” Madeline Hunter
If a teacher truly wants the respect of their students they must first model it by giving it.
“The secret of education is respecting the pupil.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Respect is learned and then earned.
“Great teachers empathize with kids, respect them, and believe that each one has something special that can be built upon.” Ann Lieberman
Teachers have a direct connection to who their students are and who they will become.
“Treat people as though they are what they ought to be and you help them become what they are capable of being.” Goethe
My goal, my dream, was to be a teacher. I never made it to the front of a classroom, but nevertheless, I became a teacher. I taught my children the faith and the values and the morals they need to have and then I built on the knowledge their teachers imparted to them. I tended to the seeds they’d sown, but just a seedling cannot grow without sun and water and care, a student cannot learn without praise, encouragement and time. Next to a parent, a teacher can be the most influential and guiding force in the life of a child.
“I put the relation of a fine teacher to a student just below the relation of a mother to a son.” Thomas Wolfe
Every action a teacher takes, every word they utter and every mood they have, whether it be for a moment or a day, will affect and impact the lives of the children they teach. A child should never leave a classroom feeling a failure. A child should never leave a classroom with guilt or fear or shame.
“Education . . . is a painful, continual and difficult work to be done in kindness, by watching, by warning . . . by praise, but above all example.” C.B Neblette
A student should walk away knowing even if they failed, they have the opportunity to succeed the next time. They need to walk away knowing their teacher believes in them. They need to walk away and want to come back.
“Nine tenths of education is encouragement.” Anatole France
For every seemingly troubled child, there is an underlying reason for their every action, whether it be emotional, mental or physical, there is a reason. Children are born with the innate desire to learn and please. The child labeled problematic was born with the same desire; something or someone along the way robbed them of it. A good teacher can help find what was lost. Some children may seem unreachable, even unteachable, but those are the ones who often have the greatest potential to learn.
“A child miseducated is a child lost.” John F. Kennedy
Sometimes a teacher will see the fruits of their labor as they watch the growth and change their influence has made. Sometimes though, they may not. There is a certain Chinese bamboo tree that once planted, seemingly does not grow. Initial growth takes place deep below the surface for many years. Before the first signs of life can be seen the tree has grown a strong root system that will sustain it as it begins to grow above ground. Within a year it sprouts from the earth and grows to be one of the strongest and tallest of the bamboo trees. There is no way to know which student will be like that bamboo tree. Just because you can’t see growth, doesn’t mean it is not taking place.
As parents, we entrust the most precious and valuable things in our lives to teachers. We trust they will provide the care and nurture required in our absence. We must do our part to teach them to respect and honor their teachers as someone of great importance in their lives. I valued my children’s teachers, they were role models partnered with me in shaping my children’s futures. I only asked they value my child and all the children in their charge. While teachers mold the future for their students, they are molding their own as well.
“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” Henry Adams