It’s All About the Teacher

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week.  I’m sure there’s a Hallmark card out there for it, but the only reason I know about it is through the various teachers and educators I follow on twitter.  (Those tech minded teachers are a very chatty and resourceful bunch!)  It’s funny to me that Teacher Appreciation Week is the week leading up to Mother’s Day.  After all, once our children enter Kindergarten they spend more hours per day with their teachers then they do with us moms.

I have twins and that affords me a certain look into classrooms that other parents do not have.  Every year I am comparing two teachers, two approaches to curriculum, two very different classrooms.  My daughters’ school gives quite a bit of autonomy to the teachers so even though they have to cover the same curriculum and reach the same math and literacy goals the teachers have a lot of leeway within those boundaries.  Every year I hold my breath as the first couple of months roll out and the truth about the classroom is revealed.  My daughters are in second grade so I’ve been through 4 years now of watching the same grade unfold in different ways.  (we separated our daughters in pre-K, but that’s a whole other post!)

Almost every year my daughters have been in classrooms that are different, but equal.  With the exception of one horrendous year (the year that shall not be named…) they have both enjoyed their teachers, the learning materials, the field trips and ended up in the same place academically in the end.  I’m telling you someone should use my daughters as research material since they are identical twins and have the same academic abilities you can really suss out the quality of the teaching and its impact on them.  But, in my own little private at home research what I’ve come to realize is that the teacher trumps everything.

I have friends at the most sought after private schools who have had horrible years because of a bad teacher and I’ve had friends with amazing teachers at schools people turn their noses at.  One thing you realize after the fairy dust of school tours wears off and the fevered panic of admissions cools down is that all of the bells and whistles, all of the high minded curriculum goals and structures mean little if the teacher in the classroom just isn’t effective.  I know there’s a movement afoot to measure what makes a great teacher, and perhaps they will be able to teach enough tricks and techniques that can make a so-so teacher passably good.  Just like moms can learn techniques to help with discipline and communication.  But I have my own theory about what makes a teacher great, not just good – and unfortunately it can’t be taught.  Granted it’s just my own theory, not based on large scale experiments or major data analysis, but I’ve had enough experience to see it in action.  I think a great teacher needs – or indeed has –  a combination of confidence, curiousity, communication skills and empathy.  A tall order for sure.  But this year both of my daughters have teachers with entirely different personalities, backgrounds and approaches to teaching yet they embody all of those traits I just listed (and they’ve each been teaching for over 20 years, so much for “burnout”.)  To say I feel lucky is the understatement of the year.

I had many bad teachers in my day, and throwing more money at them certainly wouldn’t have made them any better.  But I wish I could double the salaries of my daughters’ current teachers.  Since I can’t, I can only hope that my limited way of showing teacher appreciation – by going on field trips, making sure my kids get their work done, bringing in supplies when necessary, and generally staying out of the way all other times – is the right way to go about it.  As a school our Parents Association throws a holiday party and end of year party for the teachers, fully catered and all for them.  And we provide an amazing menu for dinner during twice yearly Parent/Teacher conferences that is delivered to their door if they choose.

Those are the small ways the parents collectively show thanks, but I’m always up for new ideas.  If you’re a teacher let me know me how your school, parents and students show appreciation, or how you wish they did.

This post was picked up for syndication here!

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3 replies on “It’s All About the Teacher”

  1. Well said, that you can have a bad experience in a costly private school; and a wonderful experience in a poorer (financially) public school. It’s the luck of the draw. As a parent in a bad situation, you just have to make the best of it, and remember, “This too, shall pass” and try to reassure your unhappy child. So lucky that you are in your current situation.

  2. It’s so true that a teacher can make or break your experience and good teachers ought to be celebrated. My son’s preschool has an intense to-do list for parents which, in a way is nice, but in a way is frustrating. Shouldn’t we be able to decide how we want to honor and celebrate the teacher…because there are years when we simply don’t feel like praising them. Fortunately for my family, this is a year to celebrate, so I better get to my to-do list…I’m already late!

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