Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Teacher Appreciation -- The Power of the Teacher

One of the most important things a teacher can do
is to send the pupil home in the afternoon liking himself
just a little better than when he came in the morning.
~Ernest Melby

The words of someone you respect hold special meaning for anyone, but when it comes to a young mind, they can be some of the most impacting words when encouragement comes for an admired adult!

The role a teacher can play in a child's life is enormous...

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.
~Henry Adams

I love that quote. There is so much truth in it, but at the same time, I feel that quote often leaves the reader to focus on the academic lessons a teacher teaches a student. Sure, the student is taught to read and that skill will continue to aid the student for his/her rest of his/her life. Sure, once the student learns that 2 + 2 = 4, he/she can count money and balance a checkbook in hopes of living a financially stable remainder of his/her life. But what about the none academic affects teachers have on students?

Teaching kids to count is fine, but teaching them what counts is best.
~Bob Talbert

How about the student that learns to accept and love his racially-different peers because he sees his teacher doing it, even though is mother and father do not share that love? What about the student that decides to further her education beyond a high school diploma because her English teacher believed she could be that doctor she wrote about wanting to be when she grew up, even though neither one of her parents attended schooling beyond the 8th grade? Or, what about the student that wants to give up on school and drop out because he can't seem to grasp the concepts in his algebra class, and his parents at home are too drunk to drive him to class in the first place?

Teachers encouragements can be golden! But, beyond that, their actions can speak louder than words. How about the teacher who takes the money from her own purse to pay for Junior's lunch because she hears his stomach growling and she knows the lunch period has already passed? What about the teacher who gives up going home after school to stay for the basketball game to cheer on her student who sits in her 6th period social studies class, even though he may sit the bench all but 2 minutes of the game? Then there's the teacher who gives up her conference period to work one-on-one with Samantha to make sure she grasps what an irrational number is before next week's TAKS tests.

A master can tell you what he expects of you.
A teacher, though, awakens your own expectations.
~Patricia Neal

In each situation, the teacher didn't have to say a word for the student to know that he/she was loved and respected by that mentor. That feeling goes a long way with anyone, but especially with a young child who is still absorbing so much of life.

I think as I reflect on a combination of the educational field and the field of behavioral sciences, I feel that based on the different stages a child/adolescent goes through as he/she progresses through development, there are types of influences that are most important at different times depending on the child's age. Allow me to give some examples...

Elementary School -- Students are in need of academic confidence. School is new to these kids, even up through the 4th or 5th grade. These kids need to be reminded that they CAN learn this stuff. They CAN learn to read. They CAN get past the "easy-readers." They CAN memorize the multiplication tables. Up to this point in their lives, they weren't required to take on such involved tasks. Homework is like a job a kid has never had. These kids need confidence in their academic abilities. They need to believe that they CAN do it and that their teacher believes that he/she WILL get it, even if he/she is struggling.

Middle School -- Students have developed academic skills. They understand the concept of the educational setting. They have grasped the challenges placed forth on working their mind, but now they are being challenged by the body. Things are changing in their bodies and hormores are kicking in. These changes are not always easy to accept. These kids are looking for acceptance. They may be having a hard time accepting the changes, so they need to see that others are willing to accept them through the changes. It's important to remember that you can accept a person without accepting their behaviors.

High School -- These students are in need of confidence. They need to believe in their selves and feel that others believe in them. They need to believe that through their failures (because they will have them), that they can still carry on. They need to believe that they can reach their goals. They need motivation to strive for their fullest potential. They need to feel that their mentors have confidence in them--a confidence that believes they can do what they set their mind too. Acceptance is once again important at this stage of life. Students begin to group up based on levels of acceptance, and when acceptance is not seen in areas where a student hopes to find it, disappointment can set in. These students need to feel like they are accepted for who they are, not where they fit in.

College -- These students are discovering who they are. They need to believe that who they are becoming is someone with purpose. They need to believe that they can achieve the purpose they place before their selves. They need to understand that change is okay, just as much as it is necessary. They need to realize that the life lessons they are learning (which will be many, and the lessons might be thrown at them rather quickly) are happening to others around them as well, and that they are not alone. They need to feel as if their short-comings are just another opportunity to have another try to do better next time. They need to believe that when having been faced with a short-coming, the adjustments they make will be viewed as a courageous effort rather than a mere reactionary response.

It is the teachers/mentors that can grasp what a student needs during each stage of his/her life and then can place the appropriate words and actions into the situations surrounding those times that will inspire and leave a lasting impression on a student! I know I have had the teachers and professors who were able to do just that, and for those I have been grateful, as they have had lasting influences on my life.

A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which every passerby leaves a mark.
~Ancient Chinese Proverb

Maybe the mark a teacher leaves will last through the end of the day. Maybe the mark will last through the next testing period. But maybe the mark will last till the student gets a chance to share it with another individual in his/her life who can benefit from it just as he/she did.

Teachers inspire youth everyday. Most teachers today were inspired to go into their field by a teacher they had growing up. Whatever the case, the power and influence a teacher has is immeasurable!

[The above pictured comics were taken from “Chicken Soup for the Teacher’s Soul: Stories to Open the Hearts and Rekindle the Spirit of Educators” by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen]

1 comment:

belinda said...

I totally agree on the important role our teachers play! For good OR evil. My kids had the very same teacher in high school English. She liked one and didn't like the other. This influenced her grading. My son did a term paper - probably average at best, even though he was a bright student. She gave him an "F." (Hint: this is the one she didn't like.) Off he goes to college - Lipsomb University. He received an "A" on the first paper he turned in! My daughter did her term paper 3 yrs. later - another average paper, but she got an "A." Off she goes to college - also Lipscomb University. Her first paper - a "D." My son was a much better writer than my daughter. She excels in other areas, but writing papers has never been her strong point. This teacher did both of them a disservice - all because of their personalities and her likes/dislikes. She led one to believe their work was inadequate when it was not and the other one to believe they knew what they needed to know when they didn't. That has been years ago. I've thought many times about writing that teacher to let her know how her actions affected them. I've always talked myself out of it . . .

On the flip side, there have been many teachers along the way that have pushed and encouraged because they saw what these children tried to hide: their ability to do better. THOSE are the teachers we need!