Teachers Who Hated School, part 2

Posted: 2011/03/10 in Classroom Teacher, Education, High School, Students

Mr. P is the best-loved teacher at my high school. On a certain rate-my-teacher website he is the only one of us with a perfect 5.0. Each student visiting this site can rate their teachers in four categories on a scale of 0-5. Mr. P has had 20 student reviews and nobody has given him below a 5 in any category.

Colleagues will acknowledge that Mr. P is a very pleasant person and that he’s well-liked by his students. But we also know that he does an excellent job as a social studies teacher. Mr. P isn’t easy on the “bad students,” in fact he’s demanding. But he knows how to get those students engaged and excited about learning.

Back when he was in high school, Mr. P had some rotten experiences. He had teachers who determined that he was not very bright and that he certainly wasn’t college material. He was tracked into a vocational program where he could learn how to work with his hands.

Trust me when I say that Mr. P is well-read with a brain as sharp and as thoughtful as any you may find. It makes you wonder what those high school teachers were thinking when he was a student. More specifically, on what basis were they assessing him?

I’ve learned a funny thing about certain of my colleagues. Some of the best teachers hated school when they were students.

The kids know which teachers love what they do and which teachers are just waiting for their pensions. The teachers also know who is putting in extra effort on behalf of students and on behalf of their lesson plans.

Of course hating high school isn’t a prerequisite to being a great teacher. Mrs. B is an extraordinary educator who’s been a mentor teacher (both officially and unofficially) to many of us. You just know that back in school she won the penmanship award and spent hours studying for tests where she already had a guaranteed A. What makes her extraordinary in her job is her love of teaching and her efforts on behalf of helping kids succeed (even though she may get frustrated with the lack of appreciation shown by typical teenagers).

But I believe there’s a special role for teachers who hated school. They remember how awful some of their high school classes were and they will go to lengths to keep their classes from falling into those traps of tedium. They remember how easily an adult can make a teenager feel small and feel bad about themselves, and they know how important it is for a teacher to create a safe and positive learning environment.

If you hear teens today complaining about how much they hate high school, don’t tell them that they’ll grow up and see it differently. Suggest that when they grow up they can go back into a classroom and try to make high school better.

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