I had some pretty crappy teachers as a kid. I had some good ones, too, people I have gone back to visit over the years. But unfortunately, as happens, the scars holder deeper memories. Part of why my parents decided to move south in 1984 was for better schools, and I hope to this day they realize that decision saved me; it was the best parenting decision they ever made, perhaps second only to allowing me the freedom to choose a college as far away as I was could comfortably go, which I'm sure was past their own comfort zone, nevermind the price tag. "If you love something set it free" works. But I digress.
After we moved I fared much better, but then I was in middle school - a pretty difficult time for any kid - and again, I had good experiences and bad experiences. But the bad ones, save for one science teacher who tried to break me (Fuck you Linda Beaman) really weren't that bad, I learned to rise above. The best thing I learned in middle school was somebody is always in worse shape than you, get over it.
It wasn't until I got to high school that I came to know teachers who really cared about the students. They cared not just about if we were successful in school, but in life after school. They cared about making sure we had tools for the real world. Some of these teachers did things that were unconventional, and probably against some chart of rules developed by suits who hadn't taught kids since the 50's, but they did them anyway, because they knew they had to break through. They were unafraid, because their goals were different than the suits - they weren't just trying to get us through with the best test scores, they were on the front lines watching the generations of kids change. These teachers knew that socially, those high school kids were exploding - sex and drugs and too much money and not enough attention from busy parents were driving my generation. The good ones understood you couldn't just stand up there and lecture, you had to make them learn.
It's a passion, teaching. It's about being creative. It's being flexible, it's being willing to try things differently, instead of just doing the same old thing and hoping it sticks.
I logged onto Facebook this morning to discover one of the good ones is gone. Not everybody loved him, he could be kind of gruff. He was a yeller. He didn't follow the rules, he broke them on purpose. He didn't pander to parents, and he didn't give a shit how much money you had (or didn't have,) it bought you nothing in his classroom. He didn't cut you any slack, unless you showed the courage to ask for help. Then he bent over backwards to help you, while still pushing you to do your best, then do better than that. Shut up, do it again. Don't stop.
I've spent my entire adult life knowing I wanted to be a teacher, but not really knowing why. In every job I've ever had, I have drifted toward the teaching, counseling and confidence-boosting of the people around me. It is maybe an inate trait. But it is also because of people like Mr House. And Max Brown. Teachers who gave me chances, and held me responsible. It is because of my cousins in Joplin, Missouri, who are now trying to not only teach, but locate the families who need more than an education to survive. It is because of the early childhood/special ed teacher in the Everman school district outside Ft. Worth, Texas, where families didn't come to parent/teacher conferences not because they don't care or can't be bothered, but because they're afraid they will be discovered and shipped back to hell on earth. She taught them as best she could, as if they were her own broken babies. From her I learned the good, and the bad: You can't save them all. You can only help them change their path.
My faith in teachers has shifted as an adult. As a child I thought teachers were evil, egomaniacal overlords who's job it was to break the thinker in you and make you get back in line. And then I met people who knew their job was to MAKE you think. Their influence has been great and evident in my parenting, my job choices, my empathatic nature, and I bow to them on this next leg of my life journey.
* I started to call this post "my faith in the education system." But I do not actually have faith in the education system, I instead have faith in people who choose it. These things are not the same.