Saturday, June 21, 2014

What the teacher said.

In town last week I glimpsed the woman who taught one of my daughters kindergarten. Then I threw up a little bit in my mouth. During the last parent-teacher conference with her, she said something off-the-cuff about my daughter, hopefully in jest, maybe not. Years later those words have stayed with me and are no less bitter.

A friend recently confided that her son's teacher said something about her son that did not sit well with her, either. It was not a fact-based comment, it was an observation and not an especially kind one. Again, her intent may have been humor but it didn't come out as funny, especially in the context in which it was used. It bothered her enough to mention.

And finally, one of my children's teachers told me about something one of her son's elementary school teachers said about her now-adult-son. The teacher who spoke those ugly words two decades ago was wrong, very wrong about this child's potential. But those words have remained in her mind and have, fortunately, helped this woman become an exceptional educator.

Do the opinions or judgments of a teacher have more weight than those of our friends and family? Perhaps so, for the same reason people hire me as a consultant. I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. But as a consultant I make recommendations for improved outcomes based on my past experience. Teachers don't remain in their students' lives long enough to know if those predictions will come true. Nor do they work with students long enough to influence the outcome, like parents do.

1 comment:

Ron Hutzul said...

So I'm divided on the issue - teachers sure do spend a lot of time with their students, (albeit for a relatively short period) and have a greater chance of lacking the personal bias friends and family members are wont to have.

My 3rd grade teacher, Mrs Woods advised my parents, (and sadly me directly), that I "lacked potential, aptitude & ambition and likely wouldn't amount to much in life"...

My 4th grade teacher, Miss Egan - recommended I test for 'gifted' and changed the course of my life demonstrably.

That educational path led me to Mr Bowyer - now Durham Region's Superintendent and my 7th and 8th grade teacher - who cared enough to make a difference. He saw to it that I diligently applied myself, edited thoroughly with attention to detail and helped eliminate bouts of anger and frustration resulting from my inability (or perhaps unwillingness) to learn from my own mistakes and/or be willing to sometimes fail at tasks.

I bumped into one and made an effort to find the other - and made a point of thanking each of them for their efforts.

So I'd have to say, much like consultants - there are good ones who make well reasoned and logical observations and or comments that are motivational and inspiring; and conversely, there are those who lack insight, and depth of understanding, who but nonetheless feel it their "right" or perhaps duty to make comments or recommendations about the children they've "taught" at school.

Come to think of it, this works even better when you broadly define the term "teacher" to the scope of friends and family as well...

Hope that helps.