Thursday, October 06, 2011


Phew, it's been a long time since I've posted anything on here. I've had things I want to post, but just haven't done it (obviously).

Since this week has been challenging, I want to post about something positive. Even though school has been stressing me out, there are still a lot of good things happening that can be easily overshadowed by not-so-good things. A nice little pick-me-up that's a common practice at our school is for students to write appreciation letters to teachers (or whoever). A number of the ninth grade mentor groups did it on Wednesday, so it was definitely a much-needed mood booster to get a stack of thank you notes at the end of the day. My favorites this time were the kid who thanked me for teaching him algebra (I am his geometry teacher; his algebra teacher is a tall white guy, so I guess we're easily confused) and a kid who falls asleep in my class everyday who told me, "You make me a smart narwhale [sic]." There was, of course, an accompanying picture of a narwhal.

It's such a nice thing to tell your teachers that you appreciate them, so I started to think about what I would have written if I were back in high school. Well, maybe it's not exactly what I would have written, but these are the things that have stuck with me.

9th Grade
Dear Mrs. Guire,
It gave me a huge confidence boost when you told me, Becky, Paul, and Joel that you save our essays to read last in your stack. I never thought of myself as a good writer until you said this. 

10th Grade
Dear Mrs. Kunec,
I really enjoy your AP history class. you make class fun and make history feel like you're just telling us stories. I also appreciate the way you highlight connections between things that happened in different time periods. You always have a positive attitude and a smile on your face, and that makes a big difference.

11th Grade
Dear Mr. Packard,
I look forward to coming to Composition class every day. I love that you teach us how to be better writers by letting us write about ourselves. You've created a strong classroom community where I feel comfortable taking academic risks around people I probably wouldn't even know without this class. You are one of the only teachers who has tried to get to know us as individuals, and also one of the only teachers who lets us into your life.

12th Grade
Dear Mr. Seybold,
Thank you for preparing us so well for the AP calculus test. I walked out of that test feeling more confident than any other standardized test I've ever taken (including the painfully easy MEAP tests) because everything in your class helped us prepare.

It's interesting that when I think back to any of these classes, I remember very little of the content (except for calculus; today I still think back to Mr. Seybold's class when I'm working with calculus students). What stands out for me was pretty much whether teachers were nice and enthusiastic about the class. I think that I learned more from those teachers. On the other hand, my 10th and 11th grade math teacher was one of the meanest, scariest teacher I ever had. She constantly made me feel stupid and confused and I definitely cried because of her class on more than one occasion. I remember noticing when she smiled because it was so rare. But did I learn a lot from her class? Yes. I still picture her classroom when trying to recall certain math topics. Because of her I've never forgotten to add the " + C" on an indefinite integral or how to draw a perfect ellipse.  So what does it mean about good teaching that over 10 years later I've retained very specific content details from my least favorite class, but almost nothing from some of the best ones?

1 comment:

Linda said...

We all miss lots of opportunities to thank people every day, but this is especially true in a teacher/student relationship. (think of how many times teachers do not realize or acknowledge that they should be/could be thanking a student. That realization usually comes much later.

I know that someday your students will realize how much they enjoyed and learned from your class. I hope they find a way to tell you. In the meantime, can you find a way to share your thoughts with your high school teachers?