During my summer holidays last year I was sitting in a coffee shop in Calcutta with some of my ex-students when I suddenly noticed one of my own teachers Mrs. Kabita Sen, seated at a table nearby. I jumped up to go over and greet her and in my mind prepared for her to ask ‘Sydney…who?’ I was so happy and so overwhelmed when she looked at me, gave me a broad smile and exclaimed ‘Sydney Atkins’!!!! After all these years she still remembered my name. What a splendid music teacher she was and what a lovely person. She remains one of the most influential people in my life.
Most of us can pinpoint that one teacher who truly affected our lives — both in and out of the classroom. We remember the one teacher who really pushed us to achieve. Or the one who refused to let us take the easy way out. And while we may not remember much about that year they taught us, we definitely remember that teacher from that year.
Good teachers are a rare and fast disappearing species. And from recent experience I know they have become extremely difficult to find. Today most teachers see themselves as are service providers but their fancy degrees and qualifications don’t always guarantee that they will make a difference in the lives of their pupils. Sadly, over the last few weeks I’ve read horror stories pouring in from all over the country. Stories of teachers who continue to misuse their positions of authority, teachers who abuse the trust placed in them and teachers who have traumatized the lives in their care.
The buzzword these days is teacher quality. It was even at the center of President Obama’s education agenda. You see, good teachers matter — having bad teachers severely limits students from reaching their potential in every sense possible. It is no secret that good teachers can make a world of difference in their students’ lives. And as a result, figuring out how to sort the good teachers from the rest has become an important part of educational institutions around the world.
We know that good teachers matter. A lot. The gap in academic and personal achievement between students taught by text-book teachers and those taught by teachers can be life altering for students. Know what I mean? Now days however it all boils down to perfect pedagogy, rigorous planning and assessing, diligent resource making and clever behavior management; but are these things enough or is there something more to being a good teacher?
The secrets to ‘what makes a good teacher’ are more complex than ancient alchemy. Does it take some motivational mumbo-jumbo or a few misty eyed personal stories to establish a rapport? Maybe a friendly yet tough demeanor will do the trick? Does it require all these and more? Who knows? But if I’ve learned one thing in my limited teaching experience it is this: my students don’t care how much I know until they know how much I care. That will remain at the centre of everything I do. Always. I know there are some teachers who will point fingers and disagree vehemently and they’re entitled to their own opinion but I also know that I work with and know plenty of other wonderful people who will agree with me and together we will continue impacting lives the best way we can.
Good teachers really do matter, and if you’re one of them, I salute you.
Ok…Ok…enough for today. Class dismissed.