Maybe I think of teachers at this time of year because I was raised in a home where my parents were educators. My dad took the administrative track and my mom taught K-3. I was taught there is a certain nobility in teachers. That there is a special place in Heaven for teachers who influence the lives of young people for good. And that teachers “change the world” in the process.
Some may think that in this day and age where technology is all around us that all they need to know is at their fingertips; that maybe they don’t need teachers anymore. In a world of smartphones, iPads and a myriad of other digital devices. In a world of Apple, Intel and Samsung or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Or maybe a world of Khan Academy.
You think I’m joking. How often do teachers leave the classroom discouraged, wondering if anyone was listening that day? Or wondering if anybody cares? You’d be surprised.
To make it even more difficult, we live in a world of instantaneous feedback. Messages come at a rapid pace. There are so many ways to stimulate our senses; email, texts, social media, websites, television, video games, phone calls, music, videos, etc that students find it harder and harder to tune into what is being taught.
To top it off, policy makers have made accountability through testing more and more important to the point that many teachers teach to the test and the focus is on memorizing what needs to be learned.
With all the distractions, maybe we need to ask, do teachers matter? Does all the time and effort invested in their students really matter?
A recent study by the Rand Corporation shows that teachers matter. Among the findings, “Teachers matter more to student achievement than any other aspect of schooling…a teacher is estimated to have two to three times the impact of any other school factor.”
George Lucas of Star Wars fame, blogged recently, “To me, there is nothing more exciting, fulfilling, and wonderful than watching a kid finally grasp a concept, then take the information and use it in the real world. Teachers make this happen. Teachers motivate. Teachers synthesize information to help students understand. Teachers listen, coach, and mentor. Teachers matter.”
I couldn’t say it any better myself. Teaching is still a one-on-one experience. Teachers are needed now more than ever before.
A teacher’s preparation matters. A teacher’s love of their students matter. A teacher’s interaction with each student matters. A teacher’s knack of conveying knowledge in a fun way matters. A teacher’s love of learning matters.
In any conversation, ask someone if they can remember their favorite teacher. Their eyes light up. Not only do they say yes, they can tell you why. It is always about something they learned from that teacher.
Teachers must not underestimate their value. Their influence on a student can be life saving. It was for me.