Monday, December 7, 2009

The value of a great teacher

As a member of society, I always had a general idea that teachers are important. I knew they had a big impact on children, and therefore on society as a whole. Starting this year, my perspective has changed. I am now the mother of 3 school aged children (my daughter is in kindergarten, and my sons are in pre-k). Never before did I realize the all encompassing power that a good- or bad- teacher can have on the entire workings of a child and family.

My daughter has a fantastic teacher, “Ms. M”. The classroom is fun, well organized and controlled, and she is learning by leaps and bounds. I was amazed the day I came in to volunteer, and despite having a foot injury and being confined to the back of the room with her foot propped on a chair, Ms. M had only to ask in a normal tone of voice, and 21 children stopped what they were doing and started cleaning up and preparing for the next activity. I wanted to learn her secrets, because I only have 3 at home, and I don’t think there is any way they would respond with such obedience if they knew I was unable to chase them! My daughter is having a great year. She loves school, she is excited to learn, and is making amazing progress. I have no doubt it is a direct reflection of her teacher. Her experience at school has made her better behaved at home, and we are all reaping the benefits of Ms. M’s influence.

In contrast, my boys have not done so well. Everything started out great, with a wonderful teacher… who quit just a few weeks into the school year. Countless subs and 2 new “permanent” teachers (one of whom quit after just over a week) later, they are struggling. They are not adjusting to the changes. They both dread going to school, and I can’t blame them. It takes their teachers at least 5 minutes just to get them to line up, and there are constant behavior issues from several children. When I am in the classroom, it feels completely chaotic, and there is very little (if any) learning happening.

When, as a part of the SV Moms Group book club, I was given a copy of the book “Close Encounters of a Third Grade Kind” by Philip Done, I was excited! I am eager to learn all I can about this new phase of my life- being the mother of school age children. What was apparent to me, more than anything else, is that Mr. Done is a great teacher. He cares about his students, he has a sense of humor, he works hard, and he enjoys what he does. I wish that all teachers could be described that way.

Not long after I finished the book, my husband and I made the decision to take our boys out of their school. It was a difficult decision. I think there are a lot of benefits to being in school (both for them and for me), and my preference would have been to leave them in their class. However, I could not deny the problems they were having, and I felt that a lot of their “Terrible Fours” behavior was a direct result of the chaos in their school. We have had them home for 2 weeks now, and I can say that although I am busier than I was a couple weeks ago, peace has returned to our home. We no longer have tantrums that last several hours, and bedtime is a five minute snuggle, instead of an hour long fight.

I never pictured myself a “homeschooler”, but I think (hope) I can manage to teach the A-B-C’s. This seems to be the solution we were looking for, and I can just hope and pray that their kindergarten year will bring 2 more teachers of the caliber of Ms. M and Mr. Done.


Katie said...

I'm glad that home schooling is going so well for you. I really admire you. Your boys are going to do great.

Phil said...

Hi. Thanks for what you wrote. I think it is very important for parents to follow their instincts like you did. I'm sure you'll do wonderfully. Thanks for your kind words and best wishes.
All the best,
Phil Done

ali said...

I hear ya about the teacher thing. Greta has had a similar experience in primary, and it was a huge struggle for a while... I know that's not the same as preschool, but you know... :)

Lisa L. said...

Make sure to tell Abigail's teacher how much you appreciate her. It's always nice to hear you are doing a good job!

Villamor family said...

those poor preschoolers! they need that stability! way to trust your instincts! did I spell that right? way to trust your "moms know best" intuition! that probably was wrong too;)