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Letter to the Editor

Writer expresses "A Teacher's Heart"


web posted August 16, 2008
Dear Editor
It is extremely hard for me to believe that one year has passed since I was blessed with this opportunity to inform and be informed through writing this Young World column.  In August 2007, I tried to impart some wisdom to students as they prepared for a new school year.  I wanted students to expect great things for themselves and from themselves.  For August 2008, I think I'll try something different.  I continue to want all students to expect great things, but this year, I would like to call upon the teachers for a little bit of help.

I very humbly submit this request to every teacher within eyesight of this article; my simple request is that you remember why you began teaching.  If you got into teaching for summers off, then you can feel free to skip the memory exercise (you should focus on whether you really want to remain in education).  Do you remember that incredible
sense of anticipation leading up to the start of school?  Do you remember when you spent more money on back-to-school supplies than you were probably going to earn in your first week's paycheck?  Do you still have your first Roll Book?  Your first gift from a student?  Do you remember worrying about how your students would receive you?

These questions I ask to help you think back to a time when all that mattered was how many students you could help.  Of all the teachers I know, some who taught me, some who taught with me and many of whom I watched teach brilliant lessons, there was one driving force pushing them into education:  the students.  Years ago, the Jackson 5 released a song called "Young Folks".  The refrain from that song said, "You gotta make a way for the young folks!"  That is the same sentiment that drew, and continues to draw, people from all races and cultures to the classroom.  It is the concept and the belief that, "I can save the world one child at a time". 

When teachers begin to lose sight of the "one child at a time" mentality, all students begin to look alike.  The actions of one student invoke good or bad memories of a completely different student. At this point, the teachers' reaction is based more on what happened with the other student than what is actually happening now.  Whether good or bad, last year was - it no longer is, nor will ever be again. If it was great, by all means, exert every effort to replicate it.  But if it was bad, set it aside; take from it only what you can use to positively benefit the young little darlings about to invade your space on a daily basis.

Give each student the benefit of the doubt.  Give them the opportunity to learn from what you do, not only what you say.  Show students the same compassion you expect from your principal.  In much the same way teachers flee a school with inconsistent or weak
leadership; some students will not react or perform well in an undisciplined classroom environment.  As a side note, volume and/or harsh tones are poor substitutes for classroom leadership.  Allow your students to see how much you love your chosen profession.
           
A considerable amount of effort and money are spent each year to teach teachers that each student has a life outside of the 8 am - 3 pm school day box.  And, the condition of that life will largely govern the student's attitudes, actions, reactions and motivating
factors.  I urge all teachers to get to know 1 or 2 interesting facts about their students before beginning the 180 day dash to June. 
           
It is much easier said than done - I do realize that. However, all adults connected to a school are responsible for the development (mental, social or otherwise) of each student whenever they are on the school campus.  Teachers and administrators will do well to
remember, "The student least likely to ask for help is most likely to need it."
           
The role of a teacher is an overwhelming and sometimes frightening hill to climb.  Often thankless and under appreciated, many teachers return to the classroom year after year determined that this year will be better than the last.  I salute you and I thank you.  As a
teacher, you may never see the full effect of the work you've begun in a students' life.  Teachers are like the rock that creates a ripple in still waters - though its presence changes the contours of the water, the rock never knows nor never sees where the ripples end.
           
Just writing about the new school year brings on that anticipation.  I look forward to the upcoming year because of the enormous potential and the opportunities to help shape the contours of a young mind.  Young people, I hope you return to school ready to work to your fullest potential.  Remember that potential unfulfilled is an undiscovered treasure!

Chris Dinkins
Moore, SC






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Parting Shots
A new book by Columnist Carl Langley

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