This blog was written in response to another I had just read: So if Teachers Wont “Read It” What are We doing with Kids!
I had many teachers in high school that just “did their jobs” in content areas because all they really seemed to care about was coaching. They had some PE classes and a coaching job, but usually had to also teach history or English. One English teacher especially sticks in my mind. I was between a B+ and an A- when the standardized tests were given. I placed in the 89th percentile in Language Arts.
After the tests, the teacher called four of my friends to his desk and said they would be excused from class to work on a term paper in the library for the next quarter because they had placed above the 90th percentile. I was totally devastated, because the rest of us were condemned to doing grammar exercises where we had to copy the sentences and mark them up. I knew my grammar cold. I told one of the chosen few after class I would probably flunk English because there was no way I was going to do that. He offered to go with me to talk to the teacher.
I asked why I wasn’t able to work on the paper at the library. The teacher said my score was too low. When asked for details about my weaknesses, he said they were in reading comprehension. My score in grammar and usage was perfect. Case made, and I was able to join my friends and actually learn something. Without the encouragement of my friend, though, I would have just accepted my fate and probably flunked English or learned to hate it. As things turned out, I majored in English at UCLA and later taught secondary English.
It is so important for teachers to use tests properly and treat students as individuals, not test scores — to treat students with the same respect we expect of them. Above all, teachers need to model the intellectual curiosity and desire to keep learning they want their students to have. If they don’t like what they are teaching, as this English teacher didn’t, how can they ever expect their students to like learning the subject? A desire to learn is caught, more than taught.