Think back to your days in school, I’m sure your thoughts turned immediately to the clothes you wore, the friends you had, the drama that went on, and a million other things but did you think of a specific teacher? When things go wrong the people immediately blamed are the schools and the teachers that work within them. Teachers are blamed for crime rates, test grades, and everything in between but when things go right teachers often never see thanks. Sure there are bumper stickers with catchy phrases like “if you can read this, thank a teacher” but do the thanks actually ever come? Most teachers don’t expect thanks or any kind of appreciation; they are by virtue selfless and get enough rewards simply by teaching. That’s why I wanted to focus this week on the true power of a good teacher, it comes not from the thanks or appreciation given, not from fame gained or viral videos but instead the power of a good teacher can be seen in the future of their students.
I may be a little biased because I am in my last year of college on track to become a middle school teacher but before that I was a student who was lucky enough to have many good teachers to guide me through some of the toughest years of my life. Middle school is always a time people look back on and cringe, just the mention of it can send people back to all of the awkward and confusing feelings of the time, for me especially it was a time of personal loss, health deterioration, and all the typical bullying on top of it all. Under all of the bad parts though there were a group of people who never let me get so downtrodden even when I wanted nothing more than to give up; my teachers who gave me so much of their time and energy all the while not expecting any kind of recognition or praise. This continued into high school and beyond to college where I finally began to realize just how lucky I had been to have these teachers who genuinely cared about not only my academic performance but also more importantly my well being.
I’ve been student teaching in the same classroom with the same teacher for a couple of months and everyday I see him treat our students with respect and compassion. The kids I teach could easily be written off as hopeless cases or “bad” kids but my teacher has often skipped lunch to talk to students one on one about their behavior and runs a club for young men to learn professional and life skills. The students still act out sometimes, they are in middle school it is in their DNA, but they also like and respect him because they know he genuinely cares. One day after the kids had left I asked him why he went through so much to go the extra mile for our students and he said, “It’s simple, I have been trusted with these kids. They look to me to guide them and help them find their way to their best possible future.”
As I move towards graduation and my own inevitable future as a teacher I try to carry all of the wonderful parts of the teachers who helped me become the person I am today. I’m beginning to think about the kind of impact I want to have own my students’ lives and how I’m going to achieve my goal of helping them become their best selves and maybe help them love school and education while I’m at it. That is the true power of a good teacher, it’s not in the lesson planning or the standardized testing grades but instead it’s in how much the students know you care, how much they learn from you, and how much they remember your kindness.