by Kevin Burton
One of the things I said I would never do, is teach. I thought there might be some payback coming.
I reasoned that if I got back anything close to my just desserts after tormenting my teachers for so long, I’d be in serious trouble.
May 2-5 is National Teacher Appreciation Week. It’s a good time to say thank you to educators for all they do to pass on not just knowledge but also wisdom to students.
My appreciation of teachers was enhanced by my brief time as one of them.
When I was a young adult, God was merciful to me and made the most of some of my highly suspect plans. I ended up teaching English as a Second Language in a school in Puebla, Mexico for eight or nine months.
I had no training, but did have a flat Midwestern non-accent. As it turns out I had at least a few of the qualities it takes to be a successful teacher.
There is no shortage of advice on the subject. Most articles talk about being prepared and knowledgeable. Faculty Focus lists professionalism, enthusiasm, leadership and flexibility among its nine characteristics of a great teacher.
When you read such articles online, don’t miss the gems in the comments section by educators who fill in the gaps.
This response is from Sue Hellman:
“(1) Great teachers create learning experiences rather than instructional episodes — by constantly refining how to get the students from what they arrive knowing to what they need to understand or be able to do when they leave; (2) great teachers walk their own talk — by that I mean they embody and model the spirit of what they teach & expect of their students; and (3) great teachers can see their own work through their students’ eyes — they have not lost their personal connection to what it’s like to be a student. When the learning goes well, a great teacher ensures the students own this success. When it doesn’t, the ‘buck’ lands firmly in the teacher’s lap.”
My go-to person on the subject of education is my friend Laura from Ohio. She has been a teacher longer than I realized – long enough now to have the children of some of her earlier students in class.
“You have to have that je ne sais quoi,” Laura said. “I don’t think there is a formula to it. It’s about connecting to kids in a way that matters to them. It’s important to every kid to have someone they can connect with.”
Those students who don’t have that connection, those are the ones who gravitate to her, Laura said. Everything she has ever told me about school reflects how much she cares about the students, cares that they are being equipped not just to pass a test, but to live a life.
“My mentor teacher told me the kids you teach are never going to remember the content you taught them. They will remember how you made them feel,” Laura said.
How did I do as a teacher? Not bad. I didn’t stay long enough to get really good. But I did care about the students and helping them reach their goals.
My teaching persona was a combination of Richard Wright, my college sociology professor, and David Letterman.
The best thing was my students were doing what I was doing. They were learning English and I was learning Spanish. They had a hunger for language as did I. We had that in common.
I learned that the quiet ones who almost never said anything sometimes were the ones would ace the tests.
Seeing things from the other side was an education as well. Students, if you and most of your classmates are counting down the days before school is out, most of your teachers are too. Take that to the bank.
K-12 teachers love their summers and value the downtime to recharge and pursue other interests. They also take required courses needed to renew their certifications.
Laura said Teacher Appreciation Week is being observed in her school district in Columbus.
“They make a big deal about it,” Laura said. “Every day there is something at work, doughnuts or muffins, juice, pizza, something.”
If you’re in a position to do so, please offer the teachers you know a level of appreciation for what they deliver from the heart as well as from the textbook.