If you can read this, thank a teacher!
To commemorate this year’s National Teacher Appreciation Week, I want to thank all of the teachers in our District for their commitment to excellence. I would like to share a quote that has been with me during my career which I feel captures the essence of the teaching profession. I first stumbled upon the quote during my undergraduate course work on my road to becoming a teacher. Our professor challenged us to write an educational philosophy to explain why we wanted to become teachers. Consider the following quote written by Haim Ginott:
I have come to a frightening conclusion.
I am the decisive element in the classroom.
It is my personal approach that makes the weather.
As a teacher, I possess tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous.
I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.
In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, and a child humanized or de-humanized.
I would like to share my experience with one Millville teacher who has exemplified the ideals expressed in this quote. Recently, I learned that she intended to retire. Having the unique experience of being the superintendent in the same district where I grew up, I could share many stories about the great teachers here. Today, I want to focus on one particular teacher who I feel demonstrated the positive elements in the Ginott quote. She consistently used her influence to make the weather positive in our classroom. Her daily approach made my life joyous and served to inspire so many students who had the privilege of being assigned to her classroom. In all situations, she remained calm but definitely knew how to be assertive when necessary. She was caring and kind while holding very high expectations for all of her students. She was quite demanding and did not accept anything less than each student’s personal best. I dare say no other teacher could have expressed disappointment better, or stop me in my tracks quicker, than she could with no more than a simple look – this look was effective only because we knew how much she cared for us which made us desperately want to try harder next time. Although my time in her classroom was many years ago when I was just a child, I can still vividly remember how positive she made me feel about my future! That is the power of a great teacher.
Later in my life, I was fortunate to have been her colleague during my first years as a teacher. She carried the same powerful professionalism then as she did when I knew her as my elementary teacher. I considered it a great compliment that I was entrusted to be her child’s 4th grade teacher. Fast forward several years later…to when I returned to the district in my new role as superintendent. I was so excited to see that she had not changed – instead she was even better than I remembered. She carried the same positive attitude and love for children throughout her entire career. I am hopeful that she knows just how awesome her influence was, not only on me – but on all of her students throughout her career. I can tell similar stories about the many wonderful teachers I experienced as a student here. As a teacher, it is a great reward to know that you possess the power to have a dramatic impact on a person’s life – it is also a great responsibility. How will your students describe their experience in your classroom?
Finally, if this causes you to think of someone who had a positive influence on your life, please reach out to them today and tell them. Far too often, we wait too long to say “thank you” for caring about me!
There is no greater calling, or responsibility, than to educate children. You can decide to be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. Please accept my appreciation for the career path you have chosen. I am confident you will inspire our students – and future generations to come - to reach for the stars!
Dr. David Gentile