Friday, October 30, 2009


Let's be honest. Kids aren't going to remember what we teach them. Not the content at least and not most of it any way.

Think of how little we remember as adults of our school days? How many of high school lessons come to mind? If you're like me, not many. Over the years, over the lessons, the lectures, the seminars, the books--ideas atop of ideas--it's impossible to sift through the layers of learning. Yet, I bet there are at least 10 days you remember.

My memorable lessons of high school:

  1. When my 9th Grade English teacher caught me watching the snow fall and just said "pretty, huh."

  2. My typing teacher assessing my practice: "There is no pattern to your errors."

  3. Parallel parking in driver's ed, successfully, after a night of practicing in the driveway.

  4. My French teacher singing "Edelweiss" a cappella (in French) and teaching us to do so, too.

  5. Running so close to the side of the track that I knocked the stopwatch out of my coach's hand, and his not getting angry.

  6. The compliment "You have a natural sense of rhythm and movement" from my senior English teacher after I presented a dance interpretation (my first and only one) at a drama club assembly.

  7. The day the principal approved of our starting a student newspaper, after his hesitancy and hedging.

  8. My journalism teacher's allowing me to decide whether to print a damning editorial against an administrator at the risk of her job because "it was all true." (And trusting me not to.)

  9. When my graphic arts teacher suggested I should put my first woodcut in a show.

  10. All of the modern novels my 10th Grade English teacher had me read and that would change my life.
These might seem like small and random moments. Indeed, they are, but in each there's a teacher trusting, reaching, boosting, sharing, or simply being honest with me. I don't remember all my teachers taught me. I remember who they were.

Likewise, your students might not remember Fermat's last theorem, the Battle of Hastings, or the subjunctive tense. But they'll remember you.

Image credit: "Love, Teach, Imagine." By Denise Carbonell. 9 Dec. 2007. Flickr.


Kevin Hodgson said...

Great post and so true. It's funny -- we stand up there, teaching curriculum and what we pass off as knowledge, and only later do we realize that what they are really learning is how to learn, and how to interact, and how to be part of the world.
But, you won't find that only test.


Cat said...

I remember:
1. Mr. Dykins' lectures about Macbeth.
2. Tuning the Symphonic Band when I was concert-mistress (1st chair Clarinet)
3. Being called on in Government because I could be counted on to give a Conservative Republican viewpoint in a very Democratic-oriented school. (I am still convinced that this teacher was trying to torture me because he disliked my father.)
4. Admiring the New Yorker covers that adorned the wall of some class - was it another history class? I was allowed to keep a few of those at the end of the year.
5. Being able to choose whatever we wanted to read and write about in Freshman English, and having the teacher recommend real, actual adult books like Of Human Bondage.

Catherine Euston said...

What a delightful blog you have, Charles. I'm a long-time teacher and while I do suffer burnout from time to time, it's uplifting thoughts like these that remind us why we do what we do. Here's what I remember.

1. My college prep English class in high school with Mrs. Griffith who made us read six delicious books during the summer, Madame Bovary, Hamlet, and others. What fun.
2. My college creative writing professor telling me I should go to grad school and keep writing because I was really good.
3. Delicious conversations in French class over novels we barely understood but loved to talk about.
4. My high school history teacher whose lectures were so interesting I got permission to audit another class from him, just for fun.
5. My freshman year English teacher who started each class with a thought-provoking journal and then let us talk about it.