As parents, grandparents, and community members, we must strive to keep the focus in our schools on the human relationships. Kids work hard when they are in creative, hands-on, appropriately challenging classrooms run by inspirational and caring teachers.
This summer, my 16 year-old daughter did something I would not have done when I was a kid. She signed up for a neuro psych class held at American University. She had an amazing, caring, and encouraging freshman biology teacher in high school (Thanks, Ms. Schroeck!). Now she has spent the past week dissecting a cow's eye, a sheep brain, and seeing what can be learned from a cadaver. Yes, a cadaver. All of this, along with lectures, field trips, and lots of note taking for NO GRADE. When people are interested in learning, we do not need carrots and sticks to work hard. That, of course, is called intrinsic motivation. And when kids have some choice in what they do, it goes up - way up. It is teachers who plan and deliver this kind of instruction and get kids motivated to go outside their comfort zones.
I recently pondered the common usage of the terms "good" or "bad" teacher. I now realize that a teacher I remember as "bad," was an inspiration to another student. The truth is, that teacher just may not have been a match for me. We all can think of a doctor we respect, but who is lacking bedside manner, or a lawyer who knows the law inside out, but only comes to life in court.
It is time to ignore the politically fueled teacher bashing in our country. We know that the reason we hold our breath waiting for our kids to come home from the first day of school is because we are hoping they have teachers who are a good match for them. When our kids get those teachers we sleep easier. Knowing that our children will feel safe and comfortable in school, so their minds can start to imagine and enjoy the true pleasures of learning is PRICELESS.