This past week was “Teacher Appreciation Week”. We have been fortunate that, for the most part, our children have had effective, dedicated teachers. My students wrote letters of appreciation to teachers who have impacted their lives this week. Teaching is most definitely a calling and for me, a legacy.
My mother “gets” kids. She has been a teacher for as long as I can remember and now, at 68, is still teaching kindergarten in an inner-city school, making a difference every day. I value the fact that she “gets” kids because I have never been more aware of how important this quality is for a teacher. Mom understands that children are not merely miniature adults, but are unique individuals with matchless potential. She “gets” that kids forget stuff and that they have lapse in judgment, yet she permits them, coupled with accountability, to make mistakes. She “gets” that it is because of missteps that children can “grow”. She does not tout her “standards”, but is aware of the fact that standards are only validated when she connects (in a real way) with the students in her classroom – and she does.
Of the countless attributes I could have inherited from my mother, this is one of the most fundamental. I want to “get’ my students. I want to be more a part of their lives than a part of some established rule of “standard”. What excites me, as a teacher is when I hear students say that they “get to go to English” or “Mrs. C. can we do this again tomorrow?” NOTHING beats that validation.
I am aware that there are educators who never get to experience this aspect of teaching—how sad that is! They never have understood, what mom always has, that education is a partnership between the educator, the child, the parent and the school. They have a totalitarian classroom environment where kids are stifled and devalued. They expect far more from their students than they expect from themselves and they have truly missed what it means to be effective.
I used to tell my Millikin students that teaching is two faceted—one is the love of the material and the other---is magic. I assured them that I could teach them one, but the other (the magic part) they either already possessed or never would and that “faking it” would never work---kids are too smart not to notice. I actually had pre-teaching students come up to me after my class and say, “I’m not sure I have the magic” to which I would, in the most supportive manner, lead them to some other interest as a vocation.
Don’t get me wrong; I am not talking about teaching styles or teacher “popularity”. There are countless teachers, who “get kids” and have a teaching style converse to mine. There are teachers who are stricter, more lenient, more hands-on, less hands-on…yet have a relationship with their students. They not only know, but also care which students have a dance recital on the weekend (and are usually invited), or which one plays traveling basketball, or which one is dealing with family tragedies. They know these things because they have chosen to connect with the kids. Within their classrooms students feel valued and therefore enjoy learning more. They make a difference every day…there are many teachers like this and to them I say “YOU are appreciated”