View from the pen of a teacher
Teaching is a profession like any other and there are people who are really good at their job and there are those who should never set foot inside a classroom.
This week I read a Facebook comment by a parent who was very obviously upset by either a teacher or teachers and made her opinion clear by stating that she “hoped Karma would kick you so bad in the ass someday, you’ll have to s### out your mouth. I only hope the students you have crushed are there when it happens.”
These are angry, powerful words expressing a mother’s pain when one or more of her children has been “wounded” in some way. As a parent, a mother and a teacher I am so sad that her children experienced any of that.
I have no doubt that some of the things she mentions that teachers did to her children in the classroom or to friends of her children happened, because when I was a student I also experienced some of that same embarrassment, bullying and aggression. I remember a math teacher I had in Grade 7 who also held up my test to the class (it was a failing grade) and told the students that “this is not the mark you want to get if you want to succeed.”
I remember wanting to slide into a hole in the floor and have her go with me. I have not forgotten how she made me feel and I knew then that I would and could not ever do that to someone else. There was the teacher I had in Grade 3 who would grab me by the ear and haul me up out of my seat — and I got her again in Grade 6. I am lucky I still have two ears attached to my head.
Then there was the soccer coach of one on my children who never even let her play for one minute during a tournament because he was so focused on winning he could not see that not letting her be a contributing member of that team for even one minute made her feel “less than.” He later went on to get “teacher of the year.” A little ironic, I think!
However, for me as a student, there was a Ms. Bartlett in Grade 10 who encouraged me to write, Mr. Furlong and Ms. Le Shane who knew math was not my best subject but guided me through to graduation, and Mr. Manning who made me a referee for intramural sports and helped build my confidence through his confidence in me. When I reflect back on my school years, I remember these teachers who certainly related to me and brought out my best.
As a teacher, I worked with administrators like Ray Noel (now retired), who were known to be firm but fair with teachers and students, and who had the best interests of students foremost in his actions. Special education teachers like Sharon Taylor who know how to encourage students to do their best work, and art teachers like David Trainor who encourage and teach students to do more than just “draw.” These are just a few of the wonderful people I work with, too many to mention, who continue to motivate and inspire me everyday.
Nothing gets done
Teaching is a profession like any other and there are people who are really good at their job and there are those who should never set foot inside a classroom. The problem is, for those who do more harm than good, it is difficult to get them out. Students rarely speak up about verbal or psychological abuse they receive from teachers and if administrators and parents don’t hear about it then nothing gets done.
Some parents are even afraid if they speak up to a teacher their child will be treated even worse. I don’t mean to say that everything a student says is true about what happens in the classroom but sometimes “where there is smoke there is fire.”
I am a teacher and I love going to work every day — I always have, because I am inspired, motivated and encouraged by those teachers and administrators I work with who also love what they do and who really, honestly, like kids. But, I have also worked with teachers who hate their jobs and it shows! The minute that I no longer like what I do, I won’t spend another minute in the classroom.
Great teachers have integrity, they have a good relationship to their students and the subjects they teach, they can light a class on fire with their energy and enthusiasm, bring out the best in their students — not because of magic or popularity, they set and maintain high expectations while being flexible and patient, they are creative in their approach and connected to the students and the school community. And they are just good at what they do! These are the teachers you want teaching your kids.
Teaching is hard work but also very rewarding. Over the years I have heard people outside the teaching profession make comments like “they only work 10 months a year” and “those who can’t, teach.” Well, I am paid for 10 months a year and it is averaged out over 12 months and in answer to any other questions, I think the following from Talor Mali speaks for so many of us:
The dinner guests were sitting around the table, discussing life. One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education. He argued: “What’s a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?”
He reminded the other dinner guests that it’s true what they say about teachers: “Those who can ... do. Those who can’t ... teach.”
To corroborate, he said to another guest: “You’re a teacher, Susan,” he said. “Be honest. What do you make?”
Susan, who had a reputation of honesty and frankness, replied, “You want to know what I make? I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could. I can make a Cplus feel like a Congressional Medal of Honor and an A-minus feel like a slap in the face if the student did not do his or her very best. I can make kids sit through 40 minutes of study hall in absolute silence.”
“I can make parents tremble in fear when I call home.
“You want to know what I make? I make kids wonder. I make them question. I make them criticize. I make them apologize and mean it. I make them write. I make them read, read, read. I make them spell definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful, and definitely beautiful over and over and over again, until they will never misspell either one of those words again.
“I make them show all their work in math and hide it all on their final drafts in English. I make them understand that if you have the brains, then follow your heart ... and if someone ever tries to judge you by what you make, you pay them no attention!
“You want to know what I make? I make a difference.
“And you? What do you make?”
Have a wonderful summer everyone! — Michelle Cleary-Haire is a
teacher employed with the Eastern School District. She
resides in Harbour Grace