Connecting With Teachers

A new Harvard study has shown that the quality of teachers matters over the long term, leading to more earning potential, a greater likelihood of attending college, and even a decrease in teenage pregnancy. I read on, curious about what made these teachers “good”. Having previously worked in a school setting, I was not surprised to learn that ‘good’ meant higher standardized test scores, but it started me thinking about what ‘good’ means to me, my clients and my own children.

I can see the argument against “value-added ratings”. This is where a teacher is promoted, demoted or even fired based on whether the classroom standardized test scores have risen. There are so many other factors that play into the test scores that it is just not right to punish a teacher because of a classroom full of ear infections, learning disabilities, tumultuous home lives, etc.

Even the not-fabulous teachers I’ve worked with work hard. They have to. They need to differentiate the curriculum, collect data, chair committees, supervise on the playground, find breakfast for hungry children, attend meetings, eat their own lunch during meetings, accept criticism from parents, and help students cope with untreated mental illnesses and devastating personal lives. They are also often banned from many websites (cannot order a book from Amazon or check Facebook, whether work related or personal), cannot take or make personal phone calls, run out for lunch, or anything else other more typical jobs might allow.

But… I say but because there is a difference. There is a difference between the OK and the WOW! And believe me, this has nothing to do with test scores. When I think back to my own teachers, I remember the ones who made me work hard, who opened doors and experiences, and who expected more of me than I though I could give– and so I gave. They were organized and innovative, and they liked me. Did they really like me? Maybe not. It doesn’t matter, because I felt like they did. I see that so clearly through my own children’s eyes. When they feel like their teacher favors them, they love school and perform at their best. When their teacher loves his or her job, my children love them. They exceed expectations. That is why the teacher is amazing; because every student feels that way. It’s perfectly fine that every student feels like the teacher’s favorite, because the result is for every student to work hard. And every student progresses.

Interestingly, my school age clients will always discuss poor performance in class with the comment that his or her teacher “hates” them. I always encourage and assist in finding ways for that student to connect with their teacher, and guess what? It usually works