I am 51 and thinking back does not open up vivid memories of the actual lessons. I can’t recall the specifics anymore. I know that I learned how to solve quadratic equations, because I can do them now. I know a cold front from a warm one and I understand and apply grammar rules effectively, but I do not actually remember the maths, geography and English lessons from my youth and when I learned what I learned.
What I do remember, though, is how each of those teachers made me feel.
I remember if I was happy in a teacher’s class or not. I remember vividly whether I felt secure, encouraged, nurtured and grown, or possibly the very opposite.
You see, we remember how our teachers made us feel. I bet you could list your favourite teacher and your least favourite teacher quite easily.
It is often said that we are hindered mostly by a lack of self-confidence, not a lack of ability. We have tremendous potential and often don’t realise that potential by virtue of our own confidence issues.
A good teacher is a subject specialist and knows the detail of his or her subject. One cannot argue with that, but a great teacher knows how to unearth a passion for the subject within her or his pupils.
A great teacher knows how to build confidence in her or his pupils so they are willing to try, to risk, to see and by so doing, the precious children in our care so often excel and surprise not only themselves, but everyone around them.
How many of us find ourselves in careers that we chose because of a teacher? Perhaps you opted not to take a specific course at university because the subject had been “damaged” by the way in which you had been taught at school. Possibly you might have chosen a career based on a positive interaction with a teacher.
I became an English teacher primarily because of two superb English teachers that I had the privilege of being taught by at school and I have not looked back.
Teachers are so much more than imparters of knowledge. They are there, just like parents, to work together, in partnership with pupils, to guide, mould, shape, encourage and ignite a passion for learning. They are there to build self-confidence in the often delicate and fragile psyche of a pupil. The best teachers are those who foster a love of learning, who trigger self-confidence and make us believe in ourselves. Empowering someone is what real teaching is all about.
Crane is the deputy head at HeronBridge College