We all know what a good teacher can mean in a kid’s life. We all have had those teachers who showed us something different, treated us as the special individuals we are, and shared their power so that we may grow our own. Good teachers change kids lives. Most of us are fortunate enough to know this first hand – some many times over, and for some maybe there’s just been one.
What I didn’t realize, however, in my own educational experience and in all of my years as an advocate for and with students is what a good teacher can mean to a parent. My older daughter is finishing Pre K at McKendree Daycare in Nashville and her year in this class has not only inspired and helped her grow, but it has inspired and helped me grow as her parent.
In this Pre K class, my 5 year old has learned to explore, to ask questions, to solve problems, brainstorm, work in groups, create, and delve deeply into topics of her own and her class’ choosing. She has learned to work alone and with others to define and refine those topics of investigation. She has practiced democracy in her classroom. There is joy in her classroom. She has in Pre K experienced all that I have ever advocated for in our middle and high schools.
She has done this because she has a teacher who listens deeply and respects her and her classmates’ ideas and questions, regardless of their ages (or perhaps because of them). Her teacher has instilled inquisitiveness and validated her personal learning process because he exposes and models his own inquisitiveness and learning. Her class has never been about Education even as she hits and exceeds the necessary Pre K educational milestones. The educational curriculum is hidden behind a powerful learning relationship.
My daughter and I laugh when she often starts to ask me a question by accidentally calling me her teacher’s name. What an extraordinary thing! He and her learning are so closely intertwined. It is also a motivating thing – that I may be a father who so models and supports her learning, inquisitiveness, sense of democracy, and so on.
As she finishes Pre K and leaves this class, I feel anxious. I know what a special teacher and experience she has had this year. I am worried what the next 13 years of formal schooling and education systems will bring and how they will compare. But, at the end of the day, I can only hope for more good teachers. I know they are out there and I’m confident that we will have many more great experiences, that my daughter and I will develop many more powerful learning relationships as we navigate her formal education.
For now, as we speak of her last day in the current class, it just feels like a leap of faith.
So, I guess this is a note of thanks to Mr. Anthony and a prospective thanks to those great teachers to come. Please know how much we appreciate you and need you. Know that you have the ability to impact not only the life of your students but also of their parents.