This week is #TeacherAppreciationWeek

By: 
Staff Writer Kate Wehlann

Like you, I had numerous teachers growing up.

Some were wonderful. Mrs. Brown made me laugh so hard and accepted me as a brand new student half-way through my second-grade year (even if she did have to get on my case for wanting to write in cursive because the new school hadn’t started students on it yet). Mr. Bradford was probably the only one to notice me when I was struggling with depression in high school. Other adults saw some coping mechanisms and I got Talked To™ about those, but he was the only one to not make me feel like I was broken or sinful after talking to me about it. Mrs. Mack taught most of the sciences (and health and girls’ Bible and …), but still noticed and encouraged my love of reading and writing and Mrs. Elliott still has a poster I made for a book report on “Lord of the Flies” in her classroom. At I time I didn’t feel worthy of just about anything, these teachers didn’t seem to believe that and I don’t think they ever knew how much that meant. I’m not sure I knew how much that meant at the time.

I also had some not-so-great teachers. My third grade teacher seemed to not like me from the start and, while I worked hard to do what she asked and got honor roll grades throughout elementary school, she never really let on what I could do to please her. I spent a lot of time in detention because of it, detentions that mysteriously petered off when that teacher left for maternity leave. My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Jones, knew I was being bullied by exclusion and did nothing about it. My mom still tells the story of when she went to talk with her about it, but my teacher couldn’t look her in the eye when my mother brought it up. I had teachers who got fed up when I wasn’t learning something the way they were teaching it rather than thinking of a new way to explain it. Some even did so at the chalk/marker board, so not only was I not understanding, but I was humiliated because I was not understanding it in front of my whole class. There's nothing like feeling stupid in front of an audience, right? I had a choir teacher that would make me so anxious, I couldn't sing solo in front of him and got passed over for a lot of choir opportunities I would have loved to experience. He never found out I could actually sing and once, when I was in fifth grade, he basically told a boy in my class that he was “a freak of nature” because his voice had already dropped.

These have all shaped the way I act around the children I work with in CAST, both the elementary and middle school branches. Sometimes, I work one-on-one with kids who are moving quicker than their peers and some who are struggling. What scares me more than a child not understanding or not accomplishing an academic goal is a child thinking less of themselves because of it. I want the middle schoolers to know that, while I want them to behave and do what they know they’re supposed to do (and for the most part, they do), that I don’t want to stomp on them having fun. I want these kids to know they’re important and special and smart and worthy, both because I had teachers who made me feel that way and because I had teachers who didn’t.

And in that way I appreciate all my teachers, the great and the … not … because no matter how well I learned their subject, I always learned something. After all, some of the most important lessons we learn have nothing to do with academics.

(Author’s Note: No names have been changed in this, partly because readers here wouldn’t know them anyway and partly because these are largely common last names and the teacher whose name isn't common was one about whom I had nice things to say. Also because I’m of the mind that everyone’s story belongs to them and if you wanted to be remembered more fondly, you should have treated them better.)

kate@salemleader.com, @KateWehlann on Twitter

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