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What Makes A Teacher Influential

I have been asked to guest on CBC’s Maritime Noon show today talking about influential teachers.  They gave me a few questions in preparation for the interview which I have written out below for those who will be unable to listen in.  Thanks again everyone for your support!  Here is the link where you can listen in!

What makes a great teacher (qualities, maybe a personal example or two.)

Some things that make a great teacher are compassion (the ability to feel for the children with whom we work, putting a bit of ourselves into their shoes- that feeling of empathy that results), kindness (in general, being a caring person with a belief in the good in people), availability (being there for your students when they need you- to talk to them, to listen to them, to support them, to encourage them), humility (realizing yourself that you are not perfect and then allowing your students to see those imperfections- not having all the answers, not always being right, accepting your limitations and embracing your frailties), thoughtfulness (finding ways to do little things for the students that make a big difference), passion (in your subject matter, in people and in the life you lead). These are a few of the qualities that make a great teacher.

In my life, I have had many great teachers- traditional teachers as well as those who I would consider just as influential who did not hold a B.Ed. It’s important to remember that teachers can be anyone who is willing to invest in the life of another person for the purpose of that person’s growth and development. Sometimes my greatest teachers are the students themselves for they remind me of why I am here- they ground me in the here and now. I have learned some of my hardest lessons about what it is to be a teachers from my students. And we cannot forget the absolutely most important teacher that every child will have- their parent or guardian- the adult person in their life who is there for them in their life to support them. I have written about this on my blog- that parents are the most important, influential teachers that students will ever have. That being said, in a traditional sense, yes: there are many, many influential teachers out there in our school systems who make a direct impact on children and young people’s lives. I have had some, and I know many, many whom I work alongside as a teacher in the system.

I often say that my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Jenereaux was one of the most influential teachers in my life because she was my first formal teacher and she taught me how to read and write, a gift that has opened the world to me. From there, the teachers I remember best were those who brought personality into the classroom and gave us a glimpse into their humanity.

Why does it matter that teachers strive for greatness (what is their impact?)

Teachers need to strive for greatnes. Why choose to do anything less? Striving for greatness does not necessarily mean being the best on a grander scale, the most accomplished teacher in the building- rather, I think it means making a difference in little ways that end up adding up to making a huge impact. I am reading a book right now called Whole Child Education by John P. Miller and this quote by novelist David Duncan in the book caught my eye recently:

“When small things are done with love it’s not a flawed you and me who does them: it’s love. I have no faith in any political party, left, right, or centrist. I have boundless faith in love. In keeping with this faith, the only spiritually responsible way I know to be a citizen, artiist, or activist (and I would insert the word TEACHER here) in these strange times is by giving little or no thought to ‘great things’ such as saving the planet, achieving world peace, or stopping neocon greed. Great things tend to be undoable things. Whereas small things, lovingly done, are always within our reach.”

I believe that this is the joy of teachers: to do small things that make a difference in our students lives.   In the words of Aesop, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”  I think this would clearly be the vision of a great teacher.

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