For this last blog post, I would like to focus on the most essential, and unfortunately the most easily overlooked, aspect of schools: the teachers. I might come from a slightly biased, or perhaps unique, perspective on this topic seeing as teachers run through every branch of my family. But the impact that various teachers have had on my outlook of the importance of education has been rather remarkable. I would like to take this moment to thank a few of them and to highlight the significance of teachers that often goes unnoticed.
Last semester at UNC I took a required class for my psychology major, the Statistical Principles of Psychological Research. I thought it was going to be a total snoozer and was really dreading taking it. Little did I know that this class would be one of my favorites, and even better, expose me to one of my favorite professors at UNC, Dr. Viji Sathy. One of the reasons that this class stuck out so much for me was the way that Dr. Sathy instructed it. Every aspect of class was planned in advance, technology was appropriately integrated into every lesson (usually in the form of PollEverywhere quizzes/questions), and most importantly, the class was covered in Dr. Sathy’s passion: for statistics, teaching, and our overall success as students. It’s hard not to be motivated when a teacher is continually developing plans for you to succeed; and by succeeding, I do not just mean making an A, but actually mastering the material so that you can earn an A.
Shortly after the end of the semester, Dr. Sathy sent a final email to our class explaining grades, etc. and how she truly hopes that we will reach out to her in the future. She left us with these strong words that have been sitting in the back of my mind ever since:
“I have one last request: unless you have been in a hole, you’ve probably heard about the terrible cutbacks and salary freezes for educators. Once you’ve settled in on your break, please consider sending a note to a former teacher, or better yet, nominating them for an award. There may be little pay and little glory, but there doesn’t need to be little gratitude. Share with them what they did for you, and that I sent you, and tell them ‘thank you!’ from me too, because without them, you wouldn’t be the you that you are!”
It is much to easy for us as students to jump to complaining about the “bad teaching style,” the “unfair test,” or the “horribly, boring subject matter that will never be useful in real life,” when in reality, it is often a lack of effort on our part to match what the teacher has put in to make the class possible. This is not to say that every teacher is amazing and deserves an award (there are probably some who could use a little more motivation and also some who go above and beyond) or that all students are lazy and don’t try. But there are definitely many teachers who have been a part of my educational career, who have gone unnoticed, in terms of my gratitude.
I realize that this post is not exactly tied into education policy, but quite frankly I’ve become so frustrated and saddened by the holes in our education system that I am trying to focus on some of the positive components that can have a huge effect on a child’s education, and ultimately their whole life. I want to spread Dr. Sathy’s words to thank a past teacher. I would like to challenge all of you reading this to reach out to a teacher who has touched your life – one who has changed your opinion on a subject matter; one who has encouraged you to solve a problem or write a better thesis statement; one who has gone beyond their required role as a teacher and left you with a lasting impact.
I know I have many letters to write to past teachers.