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MOSTLY MEMORIES
Wednesday, April 14, 2010 • Posted April 14, 2010

There Should Be A Joy In Teaching

Years ago I wrote an article in which I stated that to me the life of an after dinner speaker would be a most satisfying one and indicated there was only one other that could be more so. Although I did not say in that article what that other occupation might be the discourse which follows is my attempt at visualizing the contentment and compensations derived from the life of a dedicated school teacher:

Through years of reading I have enjoyed articles about inspired teachers who have brought joy to their lives through the disciplining of their students — not only in accepting the seeds of wisdom they were being offered but also in the cultivation of a overwhelming appetite for learning.

In my reading I have been made aware of schools whose teachers, dedicated to the training of young children, beginning at ages three and four, seek to provide a stimulus that will be retained in those young minds and create a never filled hunger for more knowledge.

Through my reading I learned of one of those inspired teachers whose attitude toward children was:"I will not let you fail. Kids don’t fail, teachers fail. School systems fail. Colleges that turn out teachers who cannot teach fail."

Because of my intense dislike of scanning the TV Guide it has been my good fortune to stumble upon TV programs I would never have seen had it not been for my obsession for surfing the TV channels. In the past years I have indeed been fortunate in stumbling into the American Teacher Awards which is shown each year on the Disney Channel. This program is sponsored by Disney and McDonalds and presents awards from 12 subject categories to one of the three teachers chosen in each category.

During this two hour program there is a brief film on each of the 36 selected teachers eligible for an award, which shows their subject and some of the stimulus provided by the teacher to motivate the student in wanting to learn more. To me this program is quite fulfilling and it makes me understand more readily why so many people dedicate their lives to this profession.

My channel surfing also carried me into a program with Orphan Winfrey as a guest and when asked to name the person whose influence had the greatest impact upon her life, she unhesitatingly answered "My fourth grade teacher Mrs. ————, she taught me to want to learn."

I feel sure that most all of the readers of this column know someone or have read of someone whose life was influenced by a school teacher. Personally I like the way the author of a book I once read remembered one of his teachers in a very small high school in Montana:

"She loved teaching so much that she habitually turned down raises due her to forestall a day when the school could not afford her —— the foliage of her learning laced everywhere through the school and she flew among us like a schooner’s lusty figurehead prowling over a lazy sea."

"In her reading to us she might escort Richard Cory and Miniver Cheevy to their poetic dooms one instant, then bring Ivanhoe galloping to the bleats of chivalry’s trumpets next. Now Lady Macbeth in gore, now Portia pleading against blood. In Latin class she never could have us read in Caesar’s Commentaries without declaiming on Caesar the man; could not declaim on Caesar without sketching Roman society; could not sketch the Romans without embracing all of the Mediterranean, on and on in a widening spiral of lore and enthusiasm.

"She taught all the English courses, first and second year Latin and occasionally a course in Spanish, but it was the grammar of English that exalted her most. Day after day we trooped to the blackboard to take apart sentences for her, phrases chalked to one another like scaffolding, being shown how a clause dovetailed here, an infinitive did the splicing there, and how the whole of it planed and beamed together. For her the language held holy force, and she shuddered at any squander of it."

To some those words will not appear as acclaim for a teacher remembered from one’s youth — but as for me — I feel that they should warm the heart of any teacher for I see them as monuments of praise raised in honor of a person who influences the lives of others. In saying this however, I do recognize that because of the differences in people, a teaching style that is inspirational to one student may in no way touch another.

When I read the praise that so many teachers receive from students both young and old I think that this perhaps must be the greater part of their compensation for the years given to the profession of teaching. But then I think, no, their greatest compensation must be the joy they receive from seeing one or more of their students succeed in some endeavor.

Success induced by teachers willing to "go the extra mile" to instill a basic awareness of the need for and the use of knowledge; to encourage with mother hen type suggestions such as: "take Latin, it will be an advantage for you in the use of English — write for the school paper — let me suggest books for you to read". This type of counsel and other urgings that tend to propel and guide students toward their goals lend testimony to the truth in the following adage:"Teachers affect eternity: they can never tell where their influence stops."

FOOTNOTE:

This discourse on teachers will be continued in next week’s column with a heart warming story which came to me via e-mail. I know not the author but the story so touched me that I felt that it had to be told as a fitting conclusion to my article on dedicated teachers.

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