With the school year back in full swing, students and teachers are settling into a routine, shrugging off the summer in favor of fall and hitting the books. With the “newness” of the school year having worn off (and all those fresh, back-to-school clothes feeling more familiar, too), teachers and students have had a period of getting to know one another. Learning goals have been set and teachers are eager to help their students grow as young academics and young people by the time summer rolls around again.
From reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic to being a mentor to their students, it’s simply “all in a day’s work” for teachers. Sometimes, they feel unappreciated, not knowing whether their lessons are “sinking in” or if they’re reaching their students.
Recently, Quill.com asked our Facebook community to tell us about the teachers in their lives. Respondents were parents, students, or individuals who fondly remember a teacher who had a strong impact on their life. We noticed a “common core” among the words used to describe their teachers:
A Lesson in Words
The choice of words most often used by respondents painted a portrait of the positive effects teachers have on their students. Some of the most commonly used words scattered among responses were rather telling.
When a child steps out the door of their home, very often, their teachers are the person they look to as an authority figure and “stand-in” for their parents.
If you think a teacher’s day ends when the bell rings at 3:30 p.m., think again. Many teachers tutor students after class or continue to mentor students in afterschool programs. Preparing lesson plans, grading papers, and going the extra mile to ensuring students understand material can often extend well past a traditional 9-to-5 workday, too.
Very often, teachers are asked to do more with less. As noted by the National Center for Education Statistics, the average salary for a public school teacher for the 2011-2012 school year was $56,643. When adjusted for inflation, that salary was only 1% higher than a public school teacher’s salary 20 years earlier.
Since many districts are often strapped for cash, some teachers share spaces and classrooms with other teachers, or teachers pay out of their own pocket to decorate their classroom, purchase treats and rewards for students, or purchase other niceties that can make a classroom feel like a child’s home away from home.
Young, impressionable students among the elementary set certainly can use good role models. The way a child responds to learning – and educators – can have a lasting impact on them later in life.
There were a number of superlatives respondents used to describe teachers. While a teacher can certainly extend herself (or himself) beyond the call of duty, it’s often the “little things” that add up to foster a positive learning environment and set an example for kids that they can’t necessarily get from a schoolbook.
A Lasting Impact
Teachers make a lasting impression on their students, especially at a young age. While 38% of all responses mentioned a specific teacher that they had in the past, almost half of all respondents mentioned elementary school teachers.
Interestingly enough, a study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research followed urban public school students in grades 3 through 8 over the course of 20 years. The students who had teachers who took a more involved approach to learning and their well-being ended up attending better colleges, graduating to higher paying jobs, and were, overall more successful than other students with teachers who were just “average.”
High school students may define “love” as scrawling “I <3 Billy Watkins” on their spiral-bound notebook, but younger, grade school-aged students may be more likely to reserve a sort of parental love for their teachers and view them as role models.
That’s not to say that students who may not seem to be as engaged in the classroom during their high school years don’t take notice of the work their teacher does in the classroom.
Although it may take some time for teachers today to understand whether or not their lessons have reached their students throughout a longer course of their lives, our informal feedback on Facebook indicated that many of their pupils have a high degree of respect for their teachers. Over half of all respondents described their teachers as:
Those are some pretty strong vocabulary words, don’t you think?
In the words of broadcast journalist Dan Rather: “The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau.”
A great teacher may not immediately see how much of an impact their work has on students. But those textbook and life lessons they impart likely mean more to students than they know.
What teachers do… matters! It may not seem like it today, but your voice in the classroom doesn’t just echo down your school’s hallways. It echoes throughout the lives of students when each of you may least expect it.