Thinking about all of the teachers I have ever had, I realized that most of my favorites were math teachers. This is not a big surprise, since math was my favorite subject. I didn't mind going to math class or doing math homework, because I liked it. I understood it. It didn't take much effort for math teachers to connect with me because I was already connected with the material. But what other things did all of my favorite teachers have in common?
- They were nice people.
- They seemed to like us (children).
- They didn't pile on homework.
- They cared more about our learning than our grades.
- They didn't grade us harshly.
- Their classes felt more like conversations than lectures.
- They understood when we made mistakes.
- They admitted to sometimes making mistakes too.
- They accepted input from us about content and methods.
- They didn't take themselves too seriously.
I know it is hard to be a teacher. I got a small taste of it in graduate school, where I had to conduct "discussion" classes for a freshman statistics course (you can imagine the lively discussions that took place, especially in the 8 am sections). I tasted enough to know that I couldn't be a teacher. It is hard to balance kids' needs with administrators' requirements. It is hard to make material engaging and fun to those who are not already interested. It is hard to grade kids, to disappoint the ones who are obviously working hard and just don't get it. It is a lot of work to come up with lessons and assignments and tests.
It is especially hard to do all this when you know you are being judged by your students' scores on standardized tests. When you know what kind of teacher you want to be, but it seems impossible to be that teacher within the current system.
But all teachers have one thing in common: they used to be kids. And all kids know what makes a good teacher. It would be wonderful if teachers could just remember all the things they hated about school when they were students, and minimize these things in their own classes.
What do you remember about your favorite teachers?
This was inspired by a great post at Against the Wind, called 10 Things I Wish I Had Never Learned About Teaching.