How long one teacher took to become great

A great piece in the Washington Post

A few weeks ago I flew into Buffalo, New York, rented a car, and drove down to northeastern Ohio for a high school class reunion — the 55th — for students I’d taught when they were 9th graders in 1952.

They told me stories about myself, some of which I wish they’d kept to themselves, but what they had to say got me thinking about the teacher I once was.

I have a lousy memory, but it’s good enough to tell me that, notwithstanding assurances that I was their favorite teacher (what else could they say?), I hadn’t really been a good one.

I certainly wasn’t a good teacher in 1952. No first-year teacher is a good teacher.

I wasn’t a good teacher in 1958 either. Some people thought I was; they had spoken sufficiently highly of me to prompt a superintendent from a distant, upscale school district to come and spend an entire day in my classes, then offer me a considerable raise if I’d come and teach in his district.

I did. But I can clearly recall leaning against the wall outside my room during a class change and saying to Bill Donelly, the teacher from the room next door, “There has to be more to it than this.”

The “this” was what I was doing — following the standard practice of assigning textbook reading as homework, then, next day, telling kids my version of what the textbook had covered. Pop quizzes and exams told me how much they remembered. (According to reunion attendees, not much.)

[readon2 url=""]Continue reading...[/readon2]