May 7 through May 11 is PTA Teacher Appreciation Week. In honor of our teachers who often selflessly sacrifice their time an energy in the hopes of reaching children and teenagers, we would like to present stories of inspiring teachers that have been submitted to us.
By Terrance Peterson at Ritenour High School – St. Louis, Missouri
She was one of those teachers who embraced the idea of working in the trenches. I couldn't comprehend the difficulties she was constantly trying to overcome until I became a teacher myself. At the time, I was one of her obstacles - a light in a sea of darkness that refused to shine. I never knew it though, for I too, like many of my classmates, spent most of my time in a self-absorbed state of teenage superiority.
No teacher's effort was ever going to corrupt my many years of strategically planning nothing for my life. My ongoing buffoonery was enough for most teachers to write me off as being academically deficient. Mrs. Knapp knew better.
Every day she walked into the class with a battle-worn smile that told each of her students that she was ready to teach again. We never saw the "S" on her chest because we were too busy plotting minute schemes to take over the world. Our subconscious propulsion of apathy became our protective barrier, a sort of kryptonite to the other teachers. We used it to remind them all of their impending doom.
“I can't teach these kids because they don't want to learn,” was the declaration of defeat often chanted in the hallways.
Mrs. Knapp, often absent from the conversations of her dejected colleagues, was always prepared for this battle of good versus evil, of light versus darkness, of future success versus potential failure. She knew that teaching was more than just a job that sparked her to make daily complaints around the water cooler, coffee pot, or whatever liquid producing object of satisfaction used in the teacher's lounge. She knew that teaching was and will always remain to be one of the most important and influential occupations ever given to the duty of all mankind. With this enlightened mode of thinking, she challenged her students to value education and do something positive in life.
She never let the statistics convince her that she was wasting her time. A group of minority students aren't supposed to succeed in a classroom that's taught by an older, white, female teacher, right?
This assumption must have been the societal memo that Mrs. Knapp forgot to read because not only did she teach us how to love reading and writing, she taught us about the art of teaching, which simply entails nothing more than truly caring about the welfare of your students. By being a student in Mrs. Knapp's classroom, I was able to learn that the exhibition of love transcends all barriers. Discrimination, a true nemesis of education, lacks the authority to stifle minds when a teacher cares about every student regardless of racial, sexual, or economical background.
I learned a valuable lesson about teaching from being in Mrs. Knapp's classroom. My experiences under her tutelage taught me that teaching is in no way, and should never be, only a mere occupation that enables the teacher to make a decent living.
Teaching is much more.
A teacher's job is to mold young impressionable minds in order to help them achieve greatness. Of course it sounds like a big cliche however, it can't be described any other way. Describing good teaching is like defining love. It's ambiguously concrete. I know what it looks like, yet I have difficulty explaining it. Every teacher is unique and because of this, there is no blueprint that details the art of teaching.
Everyone has a subjective definition when it comes to explaining what teaching is, but what's truly great about teaching is that most people share a unified understanding of the importance of having good teachers.
I have observed and learned from a number of great teachers in my lifetime, but each one has always handled the job differently. That's why the only thing that I have discovered to be the true common denominator of all good teachers is the love that they have for their students. My initial lesson of this fact began in Mrs. Knapp's classroom, but since then, I have continued to observe how other influential teachers in my life were successful by exhibiting this same basic concept.
I hold on to the reality of how caring about each and every student can help anyone to become a great teacher. Some people might disagree.
They might say that, “Caring doesn't help you master the subject matter; caring doesn't help you change the students' miserable home environment; or caring doesn't help you deal with bad administrators.”
I might be inclined to agree with these statements.
However, what I have learned over the course of my fourteen years as a teacher is that caring about your students can't fix or eliminate those problems, but it surely can help you successfully teach each student in the midst of those things and all adversity.
Caring can help motivate you to continue the fight. It can help you teach your students when others can't. And just as it helped Mrs. Knapp, it will help you become the teacher with the hidden S on your chest and the battle-worn smile instead of the one who's consumed and conquered by the kryptonite of apathy.
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