“An understanding heart is everything in a teacher, and cannot be esteemed highly enough. One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feeling. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.”
~ Carl Jung
I believe in this quote and I have the proof thanks to my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. T.
I was fortunate to have a mom who kept in the loop with who the good teachers were in our school district. The years she made requests for me to have a specific teacher, I wound up getting a great education. One teacher my mom requested ended up being one of my favorites.
She was tough, but incredibly kind. Not having children of her own, she treated us all like we were her own and seemed to care about the well-being of each and every one of her students.
I remember the first day of class, she started off by singing to us. That left a lasting impression on me as because I also loved to sing.
During the year, I feel like she pushed me more than some of the other kids. I think she saw potential I didn’t see and may have lost the year before as a third grader in a classroom where I felt like the teacher wanted to be anywhere but there.
One day, she split up the class between two math groups — fast learners and slow learners (I am sure it wasn’t called this, but this is what I call it in my young mind). I was put in the slower-paced class, taking me away from all my smart little friends and placing me with the troublemakers and kids who didn’t seem to care about learning. I took it to heart like I was being labeled ‘dumb.’
Soon after, I lost it. I told Mrs. T I was embarrassed to be in that class and I would be fine going into the faster paced class, I’d just get a tutor to help me. Anything to end my embarrassment of having a very hard time with long division.
She sat me down and said I shouldn’t worry — this class would just be a blip on my radar in the future. I was smart and talented, math just wasn’t my thing and that was OK. She built me up, hugged me, and let me cry.
The next day my mom came to pick me up and she told my mom how impressed she was that I could spell the word ‘pediatrician.’ Right in front of me, she encouraged my mom to keep pushing me to read and spell because she thought I was going to be a great writer one day. She always found ways to build me up with my writing throughout the year, and soon I forgave myself for my not-so-stellar math skills.
The year passed, and to this day, I still have nightmares about math, but I love reading, speaking and writing – just as my teacher predicted. I feel as though I have her to thank in part for guiding me into a profession that uses my talents — and doesn’t involve one ounce of long division.
In fact, when Mrs. T saw me in the paper for landing my first job, she sent a letter to my work to say congrats and that she always knew I’d be successful. What a gem of a person.
Thanks, Mrs. T, for giving me the confidence I needed to uncover my passions. I will never forget you and your kindness, and hope to remember your words of wisdom when my own children feel inadequate about anything.
This post was inspired by a recent New York Times article about teachers, which stated, “Having a good fourth-grade teacher makes a student 1.25 percent more likely to go to college, and 1.25 percent less likely to get pregnant as a teenager. Each of the students will go on as an adult to earn, on average, $25,000 more over a lifetime — or about $700,000 in gains for an average size class — all attributable to that ace teacher back in the fourth grade.”
I believe it!
Did you have a memorable teacher? What did they do to make you feel special?