Corner Column

By Phil Major
Posted 10/13/22

Teachers matter.

That should come as no surprise to anyone, but sometimes we can lose sight of that.

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Corner Column


Teachers matter.

That should come as no surprise to anyone, but sometimes we can lose sight of that.

During last month’s Mineola school board training (a board which includes three members who have taught for a living), lots of information was digested about how the state goes about rating school districts, known as the accountability system.

Facilitator Dennis Glenn noted that parents want to know their children are getting a good education, and the system can help to do that.

But at the end of the day, what really matters is the folks in the classroom every day and how they relate to the individual students.

He gave an example from his classroom days of a student who had missed school. Glenn learned that the student had been through a particularly traumatic family experience. But one teacher was more focused on making sure the student was taught the lesson plan than in tending to the child’s immediate emotional needs.

Glenn pointed out that teachers must have the knowledge of their subject and the skills to teach it, but also have the mindset of connecting with the individual students.

All students can learn, he said, but many come to school with serious challenges and obstacles that must be overcome. And that’s not necessarily part of the college training that teachers had when they were learning to be teachers, nor in the required materials addressed by the state test.

A school superintendent in a small district once told me, talking about kindergarten students, that the most important thing teachers can do at that level is to love the students – much more important than making sure they meet the expectations of the curriculum.

We are seeing worker shortages across the economic spectrum, a situation that had perhaps been bubbling below the surface that was revealed by the pandemic.

The teaching profession is no different. Glenn said he had never seen area school districts fighting over teachers like they did this summer.

He suggested districts will need to start identifying their students who can become good teachers and encouraging them to pursue the profession.

I’m not sure there is a more important profession in our world. They, much like their students, need to be loved and supported and encouraged.

Glenn said he’s not so worried about the top students. They will go on to college, be successful, and most likely move away and not return. Teachers don’t have to work too hard to motivate them. They generally show up the first day ready to learn and participate, thanks to stable family situations.

It’s the ones who are less likely to go to college but may remain in their home towns, and as he noted, be in charge of cleaning our rooms and changing our diapers when we’re old. You want them to be competent. His example elicited nervous laughter from the board, and from me!

Glenn explained he was the first in his family to go to college, and it was teachers who helped lift him from his working-family background and to want to pass on what he had been given.

I don’t know how often I’ve heard that from educators. They went in to the profession because of a teacher or coach who inspired them.

With the reports of teacher burnout, it’s critical to our society that we address the issues that have led us to this point. Anything less is unacceptable.