Teachers Really Are Influential

This happened a while ago, but I couldn’t find the time to write about this and give it the attention it deserves.

A while ago, I was talking with a friend who was reflecting with me about their elementary school experience. He told me that he never meant to be a bad student. He had a reputation that ended up following him until the end of his sophomore year of high school. He started this reputation in just 2nd grade. It was the first or second day of school and his teacher was kind of scary. She was one of those who had obvious favorites. But as a youngster, the students weren’t aware of that until they looked back on their experience. He was talking with a fellow table-mate and his teacher came up to them. She asked my friend, “Do you want your name to be put on the board?” He was confused…. it seemed like it would be a good thing, right? Being a good student = have your name written on the whiteboard for the class to see and be proud of you (because at this age, being good in school was still a good thing). She proceeded to go to the board and write his name in the upper corner. She had the class’s attention, and went on to tell them that having your name on the board was a bad thing.

My friend was hurt. How could you not be? An innocent little boy, not knowing you were doing anything wrong, suddenly publicly humiliated in front of all your classmates and made out to be a bad kid. He was upset and distraught, he told me.

This broke my heart. I cannot imagine how he must have felt as a young kid who’s still excited about school, and to suddenly have that drive squashed. It’s really unfortunate to see the effect teachers can really have. My friend started to go follow the wrong crowd, never really enjoyed school, got grades that were barely passing, and had no plans for college. He really lost it, manly because of this teacher’s action that wasn’t called for. I’m sure there are other variables that could have re-routed him, or helped him pull himself together, but the point is that this is one event he clearly remembers that defined what kind of student he would be. That’s not to say that this teacher can be blamed for everything, but she really had a huge impact.

Luckily, my friend is intelligent, curious, confident, and a good kid. He is passionate, and he is always credited for asking the really good questions in his classes. He really does enjoy learning, and he’s so talented when he puts effort into something. Luckily, he managed to get his sh*t together towards the end of his sophomore year. He kept his grades up, got involved in extra-curricular activities, applied and is now attending college.

Not all students are this lucky though. They usually drop out of school and never realized the potential they have. They are great students, but are greatly affected by one person. As a future teacher, I don’t want to ever have a student fall to this fate. I want to help students rather than squash their aspirations. But I also don’t want to be an easy, push-over teacher who just lets anyone get by. I want my students to learn and show their skills, however they think they are best displayed.

Sorry for the sad post, but I think this story really hit me hard to think about one student who was effected negatively by a teacher who didn’t treat him fairly and set off his bad-student mentality. It’s an important story that I hope doesn’t ever happen now that we can be aware of the influence we have.

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