God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Teachers Make a Difference

I've been in a writing slump. Happens sometimes.  Not sure if it's because life suddenly becomes boring or because I miss the interesting stuff that surely happens all around me each day. Common sense tells me there are thousands of things to light a thought which in turn can trigger a muse. So...I think that I've just allowed a spell of lethargy to take over. Va bene (ok)...we need vacuums sometimes to give overworked brains a rest.

Now, I do want to share what I have been focused on this week. It is not a new thought nor earth shattering or unique to me. At the same time, it is not one that everyone shares. I hope to set that straight right now.

Mrs. Henetz 4th Grade
Teachers are important and they do make a difference in lives which means, ultimately, in changing the world. And...I am convinced that the vast majority of these changes and contributions are  positive and good. Most teachers are good at what they do. I know this from the perspective of having been a recipient of the wisdom of teachers and from having been a teacher, an observer and evaluator of teachers and, most importantly, a parent, past and present.

This past week I had reason to reflect on the teachers Casey has had in the last 7 years and realize that out of those 21 dedicated people, only 2 have been duds. This translates into two teachers who not only did not motivate him but instead squelched his enthusiasm for learning, damaged his self-confidence and  negatively impacted his performance.

His second grade teacher was such a one--for some reason she insisted that this very bright boy was "slow."  Fortunately, we were able to compensate for her by what we did at home. I have often wondered, though, what happens to children in the clutches of someone like she but who do not have compensating home environments. We lose kids this way--sometimes very early in their young lives.

Mrs. Hanna-Kinder
Then there are the ones who fall into the ranks of the truly gifted teacher--the one who magically reaches all the students, motivating performance high above the expectation. As I review Casey's school years, I am so pleased to realize that he has had at least 6 teachers who fall into this category--and there are two more candidates in his current 7th grade schedule. He has been fortunate.

Mrs. Kang-2nd Grade
One of this year's crop is his advanced algebra teacher (yes, in 7th grade--when did we/you take it?)  Last year the other of his two poor teachers was his advanced pre-algebra teacher who managed to demoralize Casey, he who at one time scored 600 out of 600 on the state math test, into doing so poorly that he was not recommended for the sequential 7th grade class--advanced algebra.

I lobbied with the vice-principal and counselor to put him into the class anyway, convincing them he deserved the chance. They struck a deal with him that if he did not have at least a B by the end of the first 6 weeks, he would need to repeat pre-algebra.

Mrs. Johnson-5th Grade
And this is where the new candidate for exceptional teacher comes into play. His algebra teacher has him turned on, excited and confident. He is currently carrying a 103.9% average for his work. She is the antithesis of his 6th grade teacher.

Yes, a teacher can make a great difference. We expect kids to have good attitudes but forget that often they will simply reflect the attitude of the adult at the front of the room.

Maestra Anna Maria and Agatha 3rd Grade Italy
And...I believe that he may well have two more such teachers in his life this year. If so, he is a very lucky boy.

The pictures on this post are of those teachers who have made a positive difference in Casey's life. I say thank you to each of you and know that your legacy lives in him.


Diane said...

Jane, this has brought a tear to my eyes, both because of how lucky I think Casey has been (I love to hear about wonderful teachers and their impact on students), and then I compare it to my own son's experience. He had the same unskilled teacher first through fifth grade and while great for continuity, it wasn't great for his self-esteem, love of learning, etc. Lucky Casey and yea for you, who fought for him and helped to make lemonade out of the occasional lemon!

Anonymous said...

Nice post,Jane and I certainly agree with you - mostly- as I have had similar experiences with my kids. They were incredibly lucky with teachers! But, when I see some of our Phila. teachers being expected to function as teacher,counselor/social worker,parent and police officer, I worry about their ability to really influence lives. Maybe you will have advice to share in NYC :)!


nancyhol said...

What a great post, Jane! Teachers (except for the few duds) need kudos to keep their positive energy going. And they deserve so many more kudos than they get.