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Teachers, Their impact

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A good teacher loves to learn and loves to see others learn.  In fact, it is my experience that the best teachers, inventors, and journalists all share an inquisitive nature.

Teachers are very important to a child's attitude about learning.  I have quite fond memories of a number of teachers and equally poor memories of other teachers.  My experience with both of my daughters simply reinforces opinions which I formed in early adulthood about what makes good and bad teachers.

All people have a mix of abilities.  A lucky few perform well in virtually any subject.  For the rest of us some subjects are mastered much easier than others.

And this is where a teacher with the right attitude can nurture and encourage or totally turn the student off about a subject. 

In my case I had considerable difficulty learning to read.  But due to my father's efforts to draw me into reading with hundreds of comic books, I finally developed a real love for it by seventh grade.  I had a science teacher in sixth grade who believed in my abilities and started me off on the path of a life long love of science and math.  Conversely, writing and English were weak areas for me, and a string of teachers in those subjects failed to nurture my interest.  I was thirty before I figured out that not being able to communicate how great my ideas were doomed them to failure.

Looking at my older daughter, whose weakness is math (and to a lesser degree science), and whose gift is writing, demonstrates the same principle.  She had some very good English teachers who found her strengths a joy and nurtured her.  While a few of the English teachers were duds, my daughter's love of the subject was enough to carry her through anyway.

But what happens when a student is struggling with a subject and they get a poorly motivated teacher?  What happens if they get several poorly motivated teachers in that subject during the formative k-8 years? 

The answer is simple.  A pattern of failure fosters even greater dislike for the subject, and a student who could have been shown the joy of that subject ends up with a very poor attitude, virtually guaranteeing continued poor results in that subject.

It is my view the teacher is, or should be, a professional who adjusts their teaching style to reach virtually all students.  I have had the pleasure to know many teachers who love their work, their enthusiasm infecting their students.  Unfortunately there are other teachers who simply lack the ability or will to teach effectively.

Ronald J. Riley  comments@QualitySchoolsNow.org

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