It is national teacher appreciation week here in the United States. and all through the blog world I have seen the incredible letters of appreciation being shared. I have seen the words that praise, the words that show once again just how much of an influence a great teacher can have. And I am grateful because I too have had amazing teachers in my life, who believed that I had worth and who believed that I could make the world a better place. Great teachers are not in short supply, how grateful am I of that as my own children go to school.
Yet, when I think of the most influential teacher in my life, I don’t think of warmth, nor do I think back with kindness. The one teacher that shaped me the most was a terrible one. For five years, because in Denmark you are assigned a classroom teacher that follows you throughout the years, she made my school day awful. She went out of her way to make me feel different for all of the wrong reasons. One that I would not wish upon any other child. And yet, for her I am grateful because she taught me so many things that shape me today.
The worst teacher I ever had taught me that no teacher should ever be allowed to make a child feel bad. That no teacher should ever be allowed to teach if they don’t really like all children.
The worst teacher I ever had taught me that sometimes emotions can cloud our judgments and we no longer see a child in front of us but only see a problem. And it is up to us to change that not let it rule our actions.
She taught me that principals do not always know what happens behind closed doors, nor do they always believe parents. She taught me the importance of a principal who pays attention and a principal who asks questions, even the hard ones.
The worst teacher I ever had showed me what power we have over the acceptance of children in our classrooms and how we must always be a force of good, not a force of pain.
She taught me that sometimes friendships cannot be broken even under the influence of a powerful adult. She taught me that we as teachers have the power to plant ideas in the heads of students, and we choose whether those ideas are empowering or damaging.
The worst teacher I ever had taught me how we can build community or we can break it. We can protect the students in our classrooms or we can give bullies more reasons to pounce. We can single out, we can alienate, we can do everything in our power to make a child feel hopeless, or we can do everything in our power to make a child feel like they matter.
So while I have had many great teachers, it is to her, that I dedicate this post. To the woman who 20 years after I left her classroom still wondered why anyone could love me; thank you. You taught me exactly what kind of teacher I would never be. You taught me what real teachers do; they love every kid, no matter what. They protect the very children they teach. They embrace the differences, not make them weapons of destruction. So to the worst teacher I ever had, you were right; I was different and it is because of those differences I now get to change the world, one kid at a time. Bet you would have never seen that coming.
I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark, who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade. Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. The second edition of my first book “Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students” is available for pre-order now. Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press. Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.