“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” ~ William A. Ward.

Researchers at the University of Maryland and Harvard recently analyzed 54 teachers randomly assigned to classrooms in their schools in four East Coast districts. They then compared the math scores of the 4th and 5th graders with how they rated their math classes on a satisfaction-type survey by responding to such statements as:

  • This class is a happy place for me.
  • This class makes me feel sad or angry.
  • Because of this teacher, I am learning to love math.

Among the results:

  1. “Teachers who were good at raising test scores tended to receive low student evaluations.”
  2. “Teachers with great student evaluations tended not to raise test scores all that much.”
  3. “High achievement didn’t seem to be associated with rote instruction.”

Bottom line conclusion: “… The kind of cognitively demanding instruction that we want to see can simultaneously result in decreased student engagement.”

Yikes, right!!??

All I know is that this report got me thinking about my own long time ago K-12 teachers, the ones I still carry with me…

In my day, though not codified, high standards reigned and scripted lesson plans did not exist. Instead, the Palmer Method of writing was front and center, as were math/algebra, spelling and composition, plus two years of required Latin in junior high.

Enter Miss Hogue: Frumpy, bespectacled, and gray-haired, demanding and strict. I didn’t like her. To this day, though, she has my gratitude for grounding me in Latin, thus expanding my vocabulary and the workings of the parts of speech. Though not a favorite, she somehow got me to sit still, listen, work hard, and learn.

As for my least favorite, it’s a toss-up:

  • My 7th grade history teacher Mrs. Frye didn’t know history or kids and showed it every day. After a while, I couldn’t take it anymore and tormented her by occasionally rolling a marble down the aisle in her direction. Made her cry each time. Then she caught me…
  • My 8th grade algebra teacher—his face, not his name come to mind—made lots of calculation errors on the board but refused to acknowledge them. And when asked a question he couldn’t answer, instead of admitting it, he just wasted class time trying to bluff.” I learned very little from him and still hate math.

By the time I got to high school, I was not a fan of teachers, but then I met Mr. Paparillo, aka Mr. Pap. He loved teaching, he loved science, and he got us loving it, too. One day he even convinced us to nosh on chocolate-covered crickets, worms, ants, and roaches, all served on pretty platters. Unforgettable.

So, quick, who was your best teacher? All-time favorite? Least favorite? Whose lessons about living and learning do you still carry with you?

Ask your kids, too. Like those university researchers, find out which classes in the past were happy places for them, which made them feel sad or angry. Which teachers did they love? Hate? And, of course, find out why before another school year unfolds. It’ll make for one helluva conversation starter…

~ With my thanks, Carol