The Poky Little Pundit

The best teacher you ever had


bad teacher 2

No, I’m not talking about me, though if I am being honest, I hope a few of my former students reading this are thinking of me when they consider that (fragment of a) sentence.

I’m going a bit off course on my post today and I hope you will indulge me. What I want to write about is good teachers. Because while my teaching colleagues are busy winding down the school year, counting the days until summer break, and secretly hating every single student in their classes (don’t lie), I am already thinking ahead to returning in September. Given the time off to reflect and consider the successes and failures of my 12 year career, I am feeling strangely optimistic. I am teaching a new class, and the thrill of learning new things and inspiring new people has overtaken my brain space.

Every one of us has a distinct memory of a great teacher in our heads – usually from high school, when high emotion sometimes eclipses reason in all the best ways. And most teachers – certainly the amazing ones I work with – are striving to embody that uplifting image kids take away from their school years. So today, I want to talk about two great teachers from my old high school: Mr. True and Mr. Blizard. And I want to know what you, dear reader, consider to be a great teacher.

Mr. True was my math teacher for two years. I had him twice because I failed the first time, which was definitely not his fault (there were WAY too many cute boys in that class). After my junior year ‘F,’ Mr. True stayed after school to work with me almost every day my senior year, trying to squeeze out whatever mathematical abilities my brain contained, and managed to pull me through trigonometry with a C. I was so proud. He never made me feel stupid – but he did make fun of me a lot, which taught me to laugh at myself and accept failure gracefully.

Mr. Blizard, who taught me English, was the first adult with whom I actually connected. He was a frustrated writer, a fast runner and a passionate teacher. He pushed books towards me like they were drugs – stuff like L’etranger by Albert Camus when my parents were divorcing and I first felt the futility of life. He looked beyond my silly teenage drama and saw that I was struggling, and he helped. He saw me as a person.

And what else could we possibly want from our high school teachers? Regardless of what you think of merit pay or private schools or teacher salaries or charter schools, I’d love to hear from you today: Who was your favorite teacher, and most importantly, why? What makes a teacher great?


3 thoughts on “The best teacher you ever had

  1. I honestly haven’t thought about my teachers in a very long time. Thank you for this post. Mr. Barber was the first high school teacher who made me feel like I was capable of simply being me. Somehow he made me feel like I could just relax and learn. I never had to prove myself or joke or make a scene to stand out in his class. I also managed to get through his classes without bursting into tears, a true accomplishment for my high school career. For me, school was much less about learning the material and more about handling various situations: social, emotional, mental, and physical. He was able to recognize that was what I needed and I am grateful.

  2. Great idea Kristina – nice to think about the positive influence teachers are in children’s lives. I was very fortunate to have had several fantastic teachers in my life! The thing that stands out in my memory was their ability to see how far they could stretch me and then help me rise to the occassion. That only happend after building trust and respect…other valuable life lessons.

  3. Thanks Michelle and Erika for your responses! It’s funny, isn’t it – how our country continues to debate how to judge teachers via results, but what we remember and appreciate is the less tangible or measurable aspects of a teacher’s personality. If my teachers had been judged on my RESULTS – poor them! I was too busy coping with my inner turmoil (like you, Michelle) to even think about doing well in an exam – and I was a pretty fortunate kid. I also like Erika’s idea of helping kids rise to a challenge – I do think boredom is what drives much of our social unrest, and I would like to make my classes more dynamic and engaging. Thanks again for taking the time to write in – I really appreciate it.

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