The Power of A Good Teacher

The Power of A Good Teacher

Teaching is so much more than just grading papers

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.

Cover Image Credit: AMC Metropolitan College

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There's A Psychological Reason Why You Absolutely Hate Group Projects

It's about time I need to stop going to bed at two in the morning.

As a sophomore high schooler, I'm ready to start a petition to end all school projects. Given the chance, I would throw group projects in particular off the face of Earth. I'm a fairly open and social person, and I enjoy being a part of groups. However, what I've noticed the past few weeks is that people are never there when you need them. People are unreliable and don't contribute to these group projects, and enough is enough. It's about time I need to stop picking up after people, and it's about time I need to stop going to bed at two in the morning.

In every group project, you encounter many types of people, and it seems impossible to get everyone to work together. We all have different schedules, which makes meeting up an issue. There are often times when group members end up "sick" or "are busy." To have someone show up is, in fact, a miracle.

Not only that, but not all group members contribute equally, despite every promises to work equally. One person always ends up doing more, if not, all the work.

And often, you find yourself surrounded by people that you dislike.

So you start to wonder, what's the point of all this? If adults hate working in teams, then why are they making us do so as well? If they want us to learn, then why aren't we learning anything?

Group projects have such a bad reputation, and often times, we fail to see its intent and purpose. I constantly hear people complain about the situation, blaming the teacher for this assignment. But, perhaps, we're at fault for doing poorly on our group projects.

Group projects are examples of diffusion of responsibility, the phenomenon in which individuals are less likely to take action in the midst of a group due to the belief that others will take on the responsibility, also known as the bystander effect. These two theories intertwine so tight that they are used interchangeably at times. Both state that when more people are around, the less inclined an individual is to do anything about a situation, which lessens the burden on the individual.

There are factors that influence the diffusion of responsibility. An individual may either feel unqualified to take action, or an individual simply doesn’t know what’s going on. Additionally, an individual is less inclined to help unfamiliar faces.

In the context of group projects, people are not as motivated to work towards a common goal. Naturally, people will rely on others to take on their responsibility. Often times, this will put the weight of the project on one person, causing them to do much more work than necessary.

Since group projects usually result in a collective grade, there’s no individual accountability. People tend to pull back, leaving others with more workload. Your individual responsibility doesn’t feel as important anymore because you believe that the others on your team are responsible as well.

A couple of weeks ago, we were assigned a video project. The minimum number per group was two and the highest four. I originally wanted to keep the group small, for I was afraid that I'll end up stressing more. My friend and I started out as a group of two, and we added somebody else upon consideration. And at the last possible moment, the group of three became a group of four.

I was not happy with the arrangement. To be frank, I was disappointed with everyone. I had expected better work ethics, work quality and most importantly, better signs of responsibility.

Like I predicted, I stressed over everyone else's work. People just simply didn't feel the incentive to put in effort, seeing that there will be others that will take over their part for them (which was true). Being the "control freak" of the group, I was the one nuisance that annoyed people into doing their work. But where's the motivation in that? They're only working so that I could stop bothering them. Deep down, they knew that I'd much rather do the entire project by myself than to work with them any more.

Another reason why group projects are despised is that you can’t express your individuality in a group project. There's pressure to not speak out for what you want in fear of being judged. Often times, your opinions or ideas don't align with what others are saying. Everything is subjective. What you think is good is someone else’s bad. What you believe is urgent is probably the opposite of others. Whether you’re working with one person or as a team of five, you have to compromise. And often times, you have to sacrifice something you want in order to make everyone else happy.

And as much as we hate to admit it, in the end, it is everyone's fault.

The purpose of a group project is to get everyone to work and learn something new as a team. Teachers assign group projects in hopes that people will learn from others and utilize each other's strengths to create a masterpiece. Though this seems like a good idea theoretically, it’s not the case in most situations.

But also keep in mind that in the end, it is your project. You're responsible, and you have to be able to learn how to lead. You have to be able to work together as a team, despite the challenges and the clash of opinions. So if you end up being a disappointment to your peers, they’ll do damage control to save themselves from a failing grade. Although it may work out for you, not being responsible for your actions will cause hostility and grudges. Your partners will never really look at you the same ever again.

And if you are the one who is driven insane due to the weight of the entire assignment on your shoulders, I applaud you. Though the stress is practically crushing you now, it'll eventually pass. Take a deep breath because you got this. Though others may never admit it, you are the backbone and deserve the world.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash / Clem Onojeghuo

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7 Tips For Interview Success

Interviews happen at all stages of our lives!

Interviews can be really daunting, especially if you've never had a professional interview. We all remember the nerves we had the first time we interviewed and it can be difficult to feel confident at times. However, interviews and talking to people you've never met are an important part of life. Since we will all go through an interview at some point in our lives, here are some tips for success!

1. Prepare, prepare, prepare!

An interviewer can easily tell if you have prepared for the interview. Even if you are nervous, it is obvious you put thought into your answers if they are clear, concise and answer the questions being asked.

2. Always have a resume.

Don't just have one copy, have multiple! You would be surprised at how many people don't bring resumes to an interview, so this will set you apart and make you appear more professional. Make sure to have someone you trust check out your resume before you print it!

3. Dress professionally.

Google business professional dress! For my friends that are men, khakis are not business professional. Make sure your jacket and pants match in order to make an excellent impression! It's never fun to lose points for something as simple as dress.

4. Research the organization or industry.

Doing your research is key to thriving in any interview. The second an interviewer hears you mention specific goals, values or the mission of the organization or company, you get bonus points. When people research the company, interviewers can tell that they actually care about the organization and want the job or position.

5. Tie your answers into the position you want.

A big mistake in interviews is answering the questions without tying them to the organization or why you are a good fit for that position.

6. Ask for contact information.

Another way to make yourself stand out is to ask for the emails or contact information of your interviewer(s) at the end of the interview. Sending a follow up email can be the difference between a good and great candidate.

7. Know how you will add value to the organization.

Be prepared to answer questions about how you will add value to the organization and what unique skills you have! There is only one you, so don't be afraid to show people that!

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