The school that I work for has the tradition of holding a formal banquet to honor the top ten students in the graduating class and a group of ten influential teachers as chosen by the students. This year, I was lucky and surprised to be chosen by Miss D., a shining young literary scholar who took my AP Literature and Composition class as well as my Theater Arts class this year. It was interesting and enjoyable to say the least to meet the parents of these fine young individuals, to get a nod from administration, to eat delicious food, and to see everyone dressed up in formal attire..
It really is special to attend a banquet that honors outstanding academic achievement as well as the role that teachers play in creating the atmosphere for that achievement to occur. The honors and accolades earned by this group of students was impressive to say the least, but what made the occasion memorable was how honestly and precisely the students were able to pinpoint, in their brief speeches, ways in which a particular teacher was able to spark something important in them, to light their path on the journey of self-discovery. Each student needs something a little different to discover his or her genius, and that made me sit and ponder the vast diversity in teaching styles, personalities, and types of expertise among teachers. As much as popular culture may at times reinforce a single image of what “the teacher” looks like or does, real teachers have extremely individualized ways of doing what they do. All teachers have an individual, unique potential to really strike a particular type of student. Skilled teachers are able to engage every kid in their classroom. But really clicking with a student to the point that he or she views you as truly influential? That’s something rare… and has much to do with the chemistry between a student’s way of seeing the world and the unique style and spirit of the teacher whom they admire.
Thinking about the fact that I clicked with one of these outstanding students, that I sparked something within her, makes me feel proud to be her teacher. It also makes me feel proud to be a teacher, since we have such an exceptional opportunity to connect to other human beings in a meaningful way by virtue of our profession. And the best thing is that each new year presents new opportunities for unique connections, as the cards are reshuffled and both students and teachers hopefully anticipate a lucky hand.