Judy Spooner Viewpoint: Appreciating teachers who believe in their studentsThere are qualities in teachers that kids appreciate and it’s not how well that social studies assignment worked out.
By: Judy Spooner, South Washington County Bulletin
Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week and teachers in all areas of School District 833 were honored. It’s a great way to celebrate the fact that nearly everyone can recall how a teacher influenced their lives.
I asked people last week, while I was following the two superintendent candidates, to tell me how a teacher influenced their lives.
It turns out I’m not the only one who was encouraged by a high school English teacher. Daughter Laura remembered Denise Atkinson, also retired from Park High School but is still active in the school’s One-Act Play competition, because Denise believed in her.
School Board member Laurie Johnson remembers an elementary school teacher who complimented her on knowing her “math facts” so she tried even harder to learn more math facts because the teacher expected her to know them.
Along with School Board members, I listened to six hours of interviews with superintendent hopefuls on a recent Saturday. Keith Jacobus, who is expected to take the reins as superintendent in July, said “trust is built one person at a time.” That stuck in my head because good teachers, I’ve observed, get students to trust them.
But trust can come in different forms, according to friend Ruth, who is a college professor. She had a tough teacher who knew what Ruth was capable of doing and expected her to do her best. She tried hard because she trusted him even if there was some fear involved.
My English teacher, when I was a senior, told me that I’m very creative but that creativity doesn’t matter if my ideas are not fully developed. If I hadn’t trusted her judgment, I wouldn’t have listened. She influenced the rest of my writing life.
Lolli Haws, the other superintendent finalist, said— and I’m paraphrasing— that teachers must have high expectations for all students and trust that they will do their best when they know teachers believe in them. No one comes to school expecting to mess up, she said.
We all know that, but assumptions are still being made that not all children can learn.
I asked kids at Cottage Grove Elementary School about their teachers this year. There are qualities in teachers that kids appreciate and it’s not how well that social studies assignment worked out. Young children are not concerned about the future. When students trust their teachers, they buy into the notion that multiplication and knowing a verb from a noun are important.
The best teachers, according the kids, make things fun. “They get you to learn stuff,” one child said, “without being boring. Then you don’t mind learning.”
Teachers should be “fun” they said. Good teachers know “knock-knock” jokes and smile or laugh a lot.
A fourth-grader told me he liked his teacher because “she doesn’t yell.”
In a very telling moment, another child told me she liked her teacher because the teacher said she “was sorry.” Seeing an adult mess up and apologize was important.
Jacobus, Haws, the other candidates and some very smart children took me back to the basics last week. People function at their best when teachers, parents and bosses trust that they will do so if given the chance.