“Every time I step into a classroom, Jane is there.”
August 30, 2006
Now that the school year underway for many, and about to begin for everyone else, we wanted to republish a post about what makes the kind of teacher that changes lives. This post was originally published September 28, 2005.
Everyone knows we are big fans of Mamacita. We have written about her, and she has, on more than one occasion, written a guest post on this blog. See this, this and this, as an examples of what teachers know but won’t necessarily share.
Irrespective of degrees, CEU’s, awards and prizes, a teacher’s only real credentials are her former students.
The following appeared on another blog. It was written by one of Mamacita’s former students- one of the many that taken together, make up her Doctorate in Education.
I was asked to respond to a point in a discussion somewhere about Gifted and Talented programs in schools. This got me to thinking about teachers I have known, and I felt my response was worthy of being posted here as well. And yes, the teacher referenced has her own blog – I’m proud to link to it.
In an ideal world, all children would have access to a quality education and given the opportunity to achieve their full potential. Of course, we do not live in an ideal world. Therefore, those of us who have taken the mantle of teacher – for my money, the single most important mantle in the world – have to find ways to get kids to that point in some hideous circumstances.
I count myself fortunate beyond compare that Jane was my teacher, because she believed in me when it looked like no one else really cared. Here’s my story.
In fourth grade, they took three of us from my elementary school and pulled us out for G/T class 2 or 3 times a week. If memory serves (and years of college will dull the memory of elementary school somewhat), we took a class on basic computer use. (In rural Indiana in the early-to-mid 1980s, a computer was a wonder.) This class wasn’t much, but it was something. It sent me a message – that the school district, while still believing strongly in educating every kid, felt that certain kids showed the promise of greatness to justify extra opportunities. I grew up on a hog farm; my family was not (and to this day is not) wealthy (indeed, for most of the 80s, we were no more than one missed payment from foreclosure – I still don’t know how we made it). I was not rich, connected, or related to a member of the school board. Yet, because I showed aptitude, I was given a great opportunity.
The next year, there was no G/T. One of the three junior high schools wanted a new gym floor, so they cut the G/T program to pay for it.
For three years, I was rarely challenged. I kept up my grades – what choice did I have? – but I learned to loathe the small minds and xenophobics that populated my school district.
Then I had Jane for 8th grade English. She encouraged me and believed in me when, as I said above, my entire community was sending me the message that good enough was good enough. She exposed me to culture unavailable to the average son of a hog farmer. She took me up to the nearest College town and let me explore the bookstores up there.
Because of her, I believed in myself again. Because of her, I went on to college (it was not a given – my two brothers are quite intelligent, but they have no degrees) and then to grad school. Because of her, I knew what a good teacher is. Every time I step into a classroom, Jane is there.
And it’s all because she believed in the spirit of what a G/T program should be. All of her students get a good education – but she finds those with potential and sends them to places they couldn’t have imagined otherwise.
And you can quote me on that.