Celebrating good teachers
Here’s to those who love what they do – and make my children’s days special in so many small ways.
Half way through last year, my son could not believe he still had 6 months to go of Grade 5. Every day was a great battle. His feet and spirit were heavy, his brain was sludge, his enthusiasm for everything school-related had not just dwindled but died.

At the beginning of this month on the way to school, in a brief moment of silence after a garrulous and excited account of how the day was likely to pan out, he mused: ‘I wish I could stay in Grade 6 forever.’

Some school years are great. Others are a slog from day first till day last. The difference, I can tell now, is the teacher.

My school career was much the same. Most teachers make school as pleasant as it is possible for school to be. Others make it hell.

One year I overheard the discussion between my son and a friend about their teachers. The friend said he didn’t like my son’s teacher because she was strict. My son retorted that yes, she was strict, but she was fair.

A teacher’s promise

That same year he did badly in isiXhosa in the second term. The teacher took him aside and said he could do better and she challenged him, privately, to bring his mark up by at least 5 percent. Towards the end of the following term he hopped into the car one day with a big grin on his face, producing a slab of milk chocolate.

‘Look what Mrs C gave me!’

He’d raised his isiXhosa mark by a full 10 percent in the term. We’d already celebrated it with a few whoops in the car after he’d got his marks back. That she remembered her challenge to him and rewarded him for his efforts was, I felt, a human, heartfelt recognition of his effort. Her quiet praise earlier had already bolstered him. The unexpected chocolate made him glow.

There has been the teacher who gently taught my daughter to speak more loudly in class. The teacher who recognised my son’s drawing ability, even though she wasn’t the art teacher. The teachers who make jokes, don’t scream non-stop, listen attentively, and don’t generalise about their pupils.

This year my son’s class teacher is a man for the first time.

‘Do you know what I like about Mr B,’ he asked me one afternoon. ‘He plays rugby and I know that he runs marathons. But he loves poetry and he reads poems to us with so much feeling. And he tells us about how he wishes he could renovate his classroom so that we could have a balcony that looked on to the mountain. And he plays us all that nice music while we’re working. He’s got plants in his class that we all have to look after. It’s like he’s a proper man, who likes the rough stuff, but he’s not shy to like the beautiful things too.’

For every sour teacher who can’t be bothered to find and like the individual in each boy and girl, there are at least three teachers who love what they do, and – without fuss – make the children in their class feel like they have some worth.

I dread the bad teachers, because they seem to wake up in our house and eat breakfast with us every morning, casting a shadow over even the most pleasant family activities. But, oh man, do I celebrate and say a silent prayer of thanks every morning to the teachers who cause my children to hop out of bed with a lust for life.

Have fond memories of a great teacher? Share them below or mail chatback@parent24.com

Read more by Karin Schimke

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