My favorite teacher was scary and mean -- but only in the eyes of those who had never been in her classroom. Those of us who were her students encouraged the rumors and bolstered our reputations for bravery, secure in the knowledge that she would protect and defend us with every ounce of her being, because we were "her students." What kind of teacher inspires such trust? The best kind!
The other day a local newspaper columnist, the survivor of an abusive childhood, wrote about a teacher who had made a difference in her life. The teacher, she said, "made me forget what was waiting for me at home."
What was it I wondered about that teacher that was different? What qualities did she have that allowed her to reach a child who was so nearly out of reach? I don't know. I do know, however, what it was that made my favorite teacher special. I'd like to tell you about her.
My favorite teacher was passionate about her subject matter. She didn't teach us a subject; she shared with us a wonderful secret. Her enthusiasm, her lectures, her assignments, even her test questions fairly screamed, "Isn't this fascinating? Isn't this brilliant? Isn't this exciting? Don't you want to know more?"
My favorite teacher was demanding. Hers was the original zero tolerance classroom. "You didn't do your homework? Complete the assignment? Follow directions? Listen to the question? Study for the exam? Intolerable! You get a zero!"
My favorite teacher was flexible. Her zero tolerance policy was tempered with common sense. "My dog ate my homework" didn't cut it. "My dog was sick" did. "I got so interested in Chapter 6 that I didn't have time to read Chapter 7" could also be winner -- provided you could justify the chapter's fascination.
My favorite teacher was real. We were aware that she too had a life -- a full, busy, complicated, interesting life. But she came to class prepared -- and so could we. She carried her love of the subject matter into the real...