by Cathie Maglio
They do so much more than teach
This blog post is dedicated to all the teachers I have had, all the teachers I work with, and all teachers everywhere!
Think back to when you were in school, and the teachers that taught you. Can you remember your favorite teachers? I remember my two favorite high school teachers, Mr. Lindsay who taught me algebra and calculus, and Mrs. Schack who taught me chemistry. I loved going to their classes. (I also remember some teachers who were not my favorites, but we’ll pass over that.)
What made these two teachers stand out? First and foremost, they cared about their students and would do whatever it took for students to succeed. Mr. Lindsay would stay after school as long as it took for a student to understand a math concept. Mrs. Schack was always there with a listening ear and strategies to help students succeed in her class. S/he would even enlist former students to tutor current students who were struggling with chemistry.
Teaching is not just about imparting knowledge. It is much more than that. A person can be very well versed in a subject but lack the ability to teach it to another person. I have known math teachers who could solve any math problem in their heads but could not teach students how to do it on paper. Just showing students how to solve a problem is not the same as teaching them to solve it themselves.
So what is being a teacher all about? I believe teaching is a gift, an innate ability. Not everyone who has this gift uses it in a classroom. You will encounter teachers in every corner of your life– parents, friends, the office (physical or virtual), coffee shops, fitness centers. You can meet a teacher anywhere without being aware of it. We learn from many different people in our lives. We meet teachers all the time.
What sets a good teacher apart? For me, a good teacher is passionate about teaching. S/he looks forward to going to work every day with enthusiasm, compassion, humor, a sense of wanting students to succeed, and a love for what s/he does. I’m sure you can think of other good traits. I see these qualities in the teachers I had as a student and in the teachers, I work with. They love what they do and want all their students to succeed, not just in the classroom but in life as well.
I have deep convictions about teaching because I am a teacher. Aside from being a Learning Specialist at JFYNetWorks, I teach developmental math at a community college. I love doing this. I look forward to meeting my students each semester. It’s an opportunity for me not only to teach them the basic math skills in the syllabus but to broaden their ability to do math. I believe that being successful in this one area will transfer to other areas of their lives. Mastering math imparts confidence that they can tackle difficult tasks and succeed.
Teachers know there is not just one way to teach. Since students learn in different ways, a good teacher will present a concept in different ways. I have always been turned off by teachers who convey to students that it has to be done the way they teach it. A teacher who is not open to suggestions from students to look at a problem in a different way does not allow students to learn in the best way for them.
Good teachers help students build confidence in themselves by celebrating any success, whether mastering one concept or getting 100% on a test. Every micro-triumph is an opportunity to instill confidence in a student. The student may think, “If I can do this, maybe I can do that.” Step by step, the student’s outlook changes, and self-confidence builds.
A good teacher lets students know that they have worth as people. I know students don’t like math. I bring chocolate to my classes because I know that chocolate makes everything better—even math class. I also love to bake. Before the pandemic, I baked for all my classes at least once a semester. Students appreciate teachers who listen to them and care about what goes on in their lives, not only in school but outside as well. They especially appreciate teachers who bake for them!
A good teacher is also a student. Teachers can learn a lot from their students. I have learned new ways to set up problems and new ways to solve problems from my students.
Learning does not have to be dull and boring. It can be fun and exciting. A good teacher makes that happen.
A parting word to students: Do not be afraid to thank the teachers in your life and let them know the impact they have had on you. Teachers need recognition and encouragement too. If you’ve been engaged enough to read to the end of this blog post, go out and thank a teacher today. And bring chocolate.
Cathie Maglio is a Learning Specialist with JFYNetWorks and a community college teacher.
Other posts authored by Cathie can be found here.
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