Celebrating good teachers

2011-06-28 00:00

HALFWAY through last year, my son could not believe he still had six months to go of Grade 5. Every day was a great battle. His feet and spirit were heavy, his brain was sludge, his enthusiasm for everything school-related had not just dwindled but died.

At the beginning of this month, on the way to school, in a brief moment of silence after a garrulous and excited account of how the day was likely to pan out, he mused: “I wish I could stay in Grade 6 forever.”

Some school years are great. Others are a slog from day first until day last. The difference, I can tell now, is the teacher.

My school career was much the same. Most teachers make school as pleasant as it is possible for school to be. Others make it hell.

One year I overheard a discussion between my son and a friend about their teachers. The friend said he didn’t like my son’s teacher because she was strict. My son retorted that yes, she was strict, but she was fair.

That same year, he did badly in Xhosa in the second term. The teacher took him aside and said he could do better and she challenged him, privately, to bring his mark up by at least five percent. Towards the end of the following term he hopped into the car one day with a big grin on his face, producing a slab of milk chocolate.

“Look what Mrs C gave me!”

He’d raised his Xhosa mark by a full 10% in the term. We’d already celebrated it with a few whoops in the car after he’d got his marks back. That she remembered her challenge to him and rewarded him for his efforts was, I felt, a human, heartfelt recognition of his effort. Her quiet praise earlier had already bolstered him. The unexpected chocolate made him glow.

There has been the teacher who gently taught my daughter to speak more loudly in class. The teacher who recognised my son’s drawing ability, even though she wasn’t the art teacher. The teachers who make jokes, don’t scream non-stop, listen attentively, and don’t generalise about their pupils.

This year, for the first time, my son’s class teacher is a man.

“Do you know what I like about Mr B?” he asked me one afternoon.

“He plays rugby and I know that he runs marathons. But he loves poetry and he reads poems to us with so much feeling. And he tells us about how he wishes he could renovate his classroom so that we could have a balcony that looked onto the mountain. And he plays us all that nice music while we’re working. He’s got plants in his class that we all have to look after. It’s like he’s a proper man, who likes the rough stuff, but he’s not shy to like the beautiful things too.”

For every sour teacher who can’t be bothered to find and like the individual in each boy and girl, there are at least three teachers who love what they do, and — without fuss  — make the children in their class feel like they have some worth. I dread the bad teachers, because they seem to wake up in our house and eat breakfast with us every morning, casting a shadow over even the most pleasant family activities. But, oh man, do I celebrate and say a silent prayer of thanks every morning to the teachers who cause my children to hop out of bed with a lust for life. — Parent 24.com

Here’s to those who love what they do — and make a child’s days special in so many ways

KARIN SCHIMKE

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