One of the most incredible things about teaching is the immense impact that teachers have on their students’ lives. Most people can name at least one teacher that affected their lives in some way. Some people had truly profound experiences involving teachers and others can just pinpoint some area of knowledge they know really well because of a teacher. The point is, there are few people that end their schooling without one teacher who affected them.
When I asked a few friends to offer up their own experiences with impactful teachers, I received some great stories. These teachers are exactly what I aspire to be. They each inspired in their own ways and strengthened their students’ knowledge on the subjects they taught.
Mrs. Fritch was Spencer’s 8th grade English teacher. Before her class, Spencer absolutely hated reading and had actually never before read a book outside of class, for fun. Mrs. Fritch brought that streak to an end. It was during her class and because of her encouragement that he first read a book for the purpose of enjoying it, and did just that. Spencer said that Mrs. Fritch was encouraging and approachable, and even spent time putting together clubs she thought her students might enjoy. When she started the gardening club, Spencer gardened with her once a week, talking both about English and other subjects. She really took the time to get to know her students and they became familiar with her in return.
Mr. Benjamin was Jacque’s premed and advanced premed teacher her last two years of high school. Over the course of the classes he taught, he became a sounding board for his students, allowing them to come into his classroom to talk about whatever they wanted, rather than just his class. He was always available to offer help with his challenging class or to give advice to anyone who needed it. Jacque said that he often gave oral exams which helped to increase her confidence for speaking up in class and structured the class itself to make difficult material a joy to learn. Jacque is now a biomedical sciences major and she says that it was Mr. Benjamin who sparked her interest in the subject of medicine, and inspired her to go into the field herself.
Mr. Thomas was Emma’s English teacher for ninth grade English and AP Literature and Composition. She found that he was the most personable teacher she had during high school and because of that, she learned much better in his class. Mr. Thomas often structured his classes in a seminar style, allowing his students to discuss and contributing only what he thought would spur conversation forward. Emma felt that with many of her other teachers, she had great teacher-student relationships, but with Mr. Thomas, she had a great person-person relationship that encouraged her to put a lot of effort into his classes, and subsequently get a lot out of them.
The biggest commonality that appears in each of the stories is the personal relationship that Spencer, Jacque, and Emma formed with their favorite teachers. It seems that whenever a teacher takes the time to form the type of bond that these three teachers did, students benefit from the classes far more than they would without close relationships. I have garnered that the biggest teacher allies–those that not only leave lasting impressions on their students, but also teach them every facet of their speciality–are the ones who take the time to develop relationships with their students.
Since one of the focuses of my semester in the education program has been vulnerability, I have thought a lot about what vulnerability in the classroom can add and have landed on this: every teacher needs to focus at least a bit of time on forming individual relationships with their students. Although it may seem like getting content information out there is far more important, the two are actually entwined. When teachers create bonds with their students, those students will learn much better and much more.