Here’s a favorite question we like to ask when getting to know new friends—
“Can you recall a significant teacher in your life? Someone who helped you along the way?”
A common response is usually something simple like “My 3rd grade teacher–Mrs. Miller,” or “Professor Benson, from freshman chemistry,” or “Mrs. Peterson, the school counselor”—often delivered with a warm smile, and followed with a shake of the head. But then, if we’re lucky—and we often are—we get an interesting follow-up comment, anecdote, or story. Something surprising, illuminating, something like—
“Never being a particularly good student, I found myself sitting in front of my high school history teacher, Mr. McManus, telling me I was failing his course, and there was a very good chance I wouldn’t pass. Stunned and embarrassed I tried to muster an answer, but before I could, he looked at me and said, ‘If you fail my class, then I will have failed you.’ His words hit me like a ton of bricks. I had never had a teacher talk to me like that. If I flunk his course he will have failed me? Teachers failing students? The concept was unimaginable, until he said it! He was telling me he cared, he was invested. He instilled a responsibility in me I think about all the time.”
It’s amazing how grounding it is for many of us when we stop for a moment and reflect on the exceptional teachers we’ve experienced in our lives. Memories and lessons shared like the one above are not uncommon, not by a longshot. (And what a great way to get to know someone new.)
Every person who has ever developed a significant skill or ability, has had a teacher that inspired them. It’s hard to find someone who has mastered any profession who hasn’t been influenced by at least one exceptional teacher or mentor. These connections can be life changing, and often are.
Great teachers care!
Exceptional teachers come in all shapes, sizes, and from all walks of life. Their subject matter and curriculum may vary, but they all share the same quality: They care. Great teachers should care deeply about the subject they present, that is expected, but ultimately, great teachers care for their students, and equipping them with unforgettable lessons for their future.
“If you give a person a fish, you feed them for a day. If you teach a person to fish, you feed them for a lifetime.”
We say, ‘Amen’ to this favorite adage.
We know the best, most effective educators give their students the necessary skills to ultimately care for themselves. A good teacher gives students something they can take with them. Something the student earned, something they didn’t have before. For many, that knowledge is power, and a gift, a gift that keeps on giving, every time we cast a line into the water we call life.
That’s why exceptional teachers past and present, never leave us. They continue to impact our lives every day.