At a conference this summer, a man shared a story about a teacher who significantly impacted his life. In summary, when he was in 2nd grade, he was placed in the lowest reading level of his class, which was based on an assessment. According to this man, his teacher cared deeply about children and the success of each child. After spending time with him and learning about him as a student, the teacher taught him to love reading, and, before long, he was placed in the highest reading level of his class. For this teacher, student success was not an option, and what made a difference for this particular man was the teacher’s passion for teaching and learning.
The man continued his education and became a secondary teacher. It was not until he started exploring elementary education where he noticed a difference in the teachers and students at each level. For the most part, and this is probably the observation of most individuals, elementary students appear to love learning and are eager to go to school; however, something happens when students transition from the primary to the secondary grades. What kills it?
Some may argue that there are two philosophies that separate primary and secondary educators. Many primary educators believe that when students fail or if they do not learn, it is the teacher who is responsible; however, many secondary educators believe that when students fail or if they do not learn, it is the student who is responsible. There is certainly truth in both of these philosophies, and a teacher’s philosophy about learning can make or break a student’s academic career.
A teacher is key in a child’s success, not only because of the subject specific information teachers disseminate to students, but because of the purposeful or non-purposeful opinions teachers share with students about them as learners. Students learn very quickly upon meeting a teacher whether or not a teacher believes in him or her. For many children, a teacher’s perception can alter a student’s perception of him or herself as a learner, which, depending on the perception, can change the course of a student’s life.
That was the case for the man who shared his story about a teacher who believed in him, had a passion for teaching and learning, and changed his life for the better. It is the case for his extremely intelligent brother who had an opposite experience, and whose educational choices reflected not what he was capable of doing, but instead of what a teacher told him he was capable of doing. Yes, there are many variables that make up an individual’s success in life; however, teachers are a powerful and influential variable that contributes to the outcome of a student’s academic, career, and life choices.
Educators have the potential to change generations through the eduction of a single child. If we hold high expectations for all students and believe in them, they can and will be successful, with out support. With the days that remain in this summer, consider the impact you have on children’s lives not only while the children are in your classroom or school, but when they grow up and impact other’s lives and the world in which we all live.
The opinions expressed in LeaderTalk are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.