ears ago I remember being at the chalkboard in mathematics class, my back to a class of students, and saying, “If you are going to write notes (this before cell phones and texting), you best do that between classes.”
Later a student asked how I knew and I remember saying, “A teacher and mother has eyes in the back of her head.” Another way to say this is a teacher sees with his/her heart, the way all of us see truth.
You have all had a teacher who knows the truth about who you are and supported you in your endeavor to become human, a teacher who saw into your heart and through you to imagine you whole and a citizen who contributed to society and taught you life lessons whether that teacher was a parent, aunt/uncle or teacher in public or private school, friend or foe.
As teachers, we often never know the difference we make until years later, yet teachers continue this most noble of professions in faith our efforts make a difference in the lives of children who grow up to become adults in a community.
The other day I received an email from a former student I taught in the International School of Kuantan located in Malaysia when I lived in Southeast Asia and want to share it. She now teaches mathematics at the University of South Carolina after receiving her Ph.D. at age 27. She was a sponge for learning and excelled. She loved a challenge.
I left a meeting at my college recently and it resulted in much reflection on my own educational experiences that I wanted to share with you.
The college is moving forward on a “distance learning” initiative and the meeting was about standardization of online courses. Most of the work is to bring consistency in formatting online courses so that students will have a similar experience regardless of the subject and not become frustrated with online education (which I support). For example, we will all take attendance through a discussion board. However, some of the conversation turned to managing content of the course and this becomes a slippery slope as the next step is to bring this to traditional classes (which I do not support).
I left the meeting understanding what was expected of me, but feeling saddened by the movement to standardization of education. And this caused me to reflect on my most memorable and beneficial educational experiences. Many of these involved Peter and Flo Larson and the two years I spent in International school overseas.
I recall very little “lecture” during my time under your guidance. I remember examples of math problems being worked on the board and then the opportunity to actively practice those solutions at my own pace. I remember engaging science labs and designing our own experiments. I remember field trips to Taman Negara and the Cameron Tea Plantation. I remember lively discussions in English, painting on the sets of our theater productions, and our make-shift Olympics for PE. I remember watching videos, playing with models, using technology, and thinking about what I was learning.
My fear is that we are being asked to create “cookie cutter” courses with no imagination, creativity or inspiration of the individual faculty involved. That we will be expected to stand in front of a class for two hours and lecture instead of create lesson plans our students will thrive on.
Did you ever struggle with this? What are your thoughts?
I guess what I’m really trying to say is thank you! Thank you for teaching in a manner that inspired me to become the person I am today. Thank you for leading by example and reaching many different students across learning styles and cultural boundaries. Thank you for teaching me the soft skills of respect, critical thinking, and compassion for those around me. Thank you for being such a beautiful person that I wanted to model my life around you.
Like Courtney, many of us have had a teacher that has made a difference, and thanks to a community effort, a new endowment fund is being established at the Homer Foundation that will be a repository for gifts in memory of teachers who have passed, or in honor of a favorite teacher — a way to give back in gratitude for what he/she gave to you or your children.
The fund’s purpose will be to recognize and provide support to local educators for continuing education, inspiration, health and well-being.
You could help this effort by joining the steering committee, making a contribution to the fund and/or telling a friend. Contact the Homer Foundation for more information. This is one way to pay it forward.
It takes a community, a global community, to educate a child.
Flo Larson is a retired teacher, mother, grandmother, gardener, Homer Foundation board member and volunteer.
Editor’s Note: For other ways you can Pay It Forward, please see the list at the left of needs nonprofit organizations have. If you’re a nonprofit organization with a need, contact Joy Steward at the Homer Foundation to get your need listed.