The teachers our kids deserve

“The teachers our kids deserve” is not a new phrase.  In fact, Google just returned 11,900 references to the exact phrase.  However, when I limit the search to pages that have been databased in the past year (vs the default of “anytime”), I get no returns.  This is very interesting and is actually very ironic given the point I was interested in making as I opened up my New Post window.  My point is that the teachers our kids deserve NOW are somewhat different from who and what they have ever been. 

I, along with half the world, have recently watched Kevin Honeycutt‘s video “I need my teachers to learn.”  As a student, I needed my teachers to learn, too.  I remember asking questions and being blown off by some of my teachers.  I remember pursuing these questions on my own in a game of intellectual one-upsmanship to prove to myself that I didn’t need a teacher, especially one that didn’t want to teach me what I wanted to learn. Teaching has never been about filling kids’ heads with information that someone else wanted them to have at some arbitrary time and in some senseless order without any context.  But, there are people who call themselves teachers who seem to think their job is about teaching curriculum and not about teaching kids.

One of my “favorite” stories as a high school rebel without a cause is from 9th grade English.  We were “doing” the Poetry Unit (so, I am guessing it was April) and we were assigned a poem by Edgar Allen Poe, “To Helen.”  My mom has but one prized possession from her childhood – a really old set of Edgar Allen Poe books.  So, I tried to find this poem in mom’s books and I discovered that Edgar Allen Poe actually wrote two totally different poems both titled “To Helen.”  Armed with this information, I entered my 9th grade English class the next day not only having done my homework but ready to challenge my teacher, to see if she was a teacher or a learner as I had something to teach.  As we pulled out our anthology to read one of Poe’s “To Helen” poems, I raised my hand.  The teacher called on me and I asked if she knew Poe had published two poems titled “To Helen.”  “No, but it doesn’t matter because we are reading this one,” she said.  Thousands of thoughts crossed my mind and “I need my teachers to learn” must have been one of them! 

I gave up on 9th grade English at that point but I did not give up on learning.  I wrote the publisher of the anthology and asked them if they knew about the second poem and I suggested that they add a note to their next edition about it.  I got a letter back from them!  A publisher I had never met gave me more attention than my “teacher.”  The publisher indicated that they did not know this, they thanked me for bringing it to their attention, and they told me neither poem was slated to be included in their next edition.  I took the letter to my English teacher and asked her if it could count as enough extra credit to raise my F to a D-.  She took it from me and said she would look in to it.  I think I got a D that 9 weeks.

Just how much of a pain would I have been to “teachers” had I had access to the Internet?  How many challenges would I have offered up to them and how many traps would I have set?  How often would I have been sent to the office for being “disrespectful” or “challenging”?  Would I have lived “up to my potential” as I so miserably failed to do in my pre-Internet high school years?

Our kids deserve teachers who are passionate learners, not necessarily learned.  Our kids deserve teachers to teach them first and curriculum second.  Our teachers deserve teachers who view the world as their textbook, not some book that was out-of-date before it was ever put in the hands of kids.  Our kids deserve the best we have to offer them every “class period” of every day.  Our kids deserve teachers who are willing to reinvent themselves and the institution of school. 

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