Thursday, September 16, 2010

Teachers who Were and Who Were "Almost"

I had it suggested that I create a post a about some of the teachers that I remember from my own school years. As it happens, I made one as a FaceBook note quite some time back. I'm transferring that here now. Enjoy!

This thought occurred to me the other day:

In high school, I had an AP (Advanced Placement - do they still do those classes??) history class. The teacher was a great teacher and the class got into some of the most interesting conversations. The instructor would let it go on for some time - three or four minutes, maybe five? - and then would say, "But we digress..." and thereby bring the class back to the topic at hand. I learned a lot in that class.

But I could have learned more. In large part, I didn't learn as much as I could because of my own lack of effort, and though he was a good teacher, he didn't push us for more. Instead, he gave us lots of room to explore and discuss (helpful in adult discussions and debates, not so much for history!)

I had a Japanese class at the same school. Very nice teacher - one of my favorites. He was a new teacher, still very green and looking to save-the-world-through-teaching. He started a hiking club and I joined - he tried to encourage my vocabulary acquisition by quizzing me as we hiked through the woods and up the hills. The club didn't last long, unfortunately and I am not sure where the teachers is now.

A third teacher - longer in the tooth, taught English, had very definite and high expectations, or gave the appearance of it. She tried to make it so her higher grades were hard to get, but there was still always the feeling of who-were-her-favorites.

These teachers all stand out in my mind and memory - and for me, that is a big leap, I don't seem to have a whole lot of memory space left (can somebody hand me my RAM, please??) But each of these represents something else in my memory - teachers who were "almost."

Finally, my junior high band teacher. Definitely long on the tooth - he was the band teacher when my (ahem...) MOTHER was at the same junior high 20 years before. But he will always stand out for me. He was the teacher who held us to high standards; who expected we had practiced, stopped us in front of the other students and said that what we were doing wasn't what it should have been. Who cared enough to be honest and tell us that we weren't giving it our all; that we weren't. Doing. Our. Best.

My last day of junior high - a place that I would NOT miss being at because of the students, not the teachers (many of whom I really admired and looked up to) - I went to his classroom and, of all the teachers, I went to say goodbye and I hugged him... and I cried. I didn't know where I was going or what was coming next, but I knew I was leaving behind a teacher who really made us feel like he cared about us enough to say that we could do better.

As a home schooling mom, I hope that I will be that teacher - the man from my junior high band (Mr. Sorenson, for those in the know). I hope that my own children - and their friends - will look at Mrs. Edens and say, "She cared enough to hold us to standards and to make us reach for the stars, even as she gave us the stepladder to get there."

Is that too much to ask?


  1. Thank you for that very interesting and thoughtful post. I would be willing to bet that your appreciation for the "art" and "job" of teaching has changed dramatically since you started to home school your three boys; although you seem to have sensed back when you were a student which teachers were "doing" a good job.

    I find, sometimes, that it is not until adulthood that an individual can really judge the quality of some of the teachers they had. Several teachers that digressed a lot were actually covering up their unpreparedness; while others, that made class "fun" all the time, might not have covered the material or failed to challenge their students.

    I have, also, found that it is not so much what one teaches but how one teaches it that is important. Therefore, your band teacher taught you how to be a better learner and those skills could be applied to all subject areas.

    I have my fond memories of some hugs and tears at the end of some of my school years. I'm sure that Mr. Sorenson treasures yours as I do mine. That's one of the great joys of the profession.

    Thank you.

  2. I do have an entirely new appreciation now that I home school my own. I will never forget Mr. Sorenson - he was tough, and good, and it showed even with the most challenging students!


I look forward to hearing your thoughts!


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