I’m embarrassed that I can’t come up with more examples! I feel a little ungrateful.
Searching my memory, I am not finding a lot of epiphanic moments (predictably), but I have recalled a few little saving graces.
My kindergarten teacher, for example. I was both the youngest and tallest in my class, in addition to being the only reader. She had me read books to the class sometimes, but she did it in a way that seemed natural, a way of sharing interests. I remember reading about dinosaurs, which somehow was more about sharing an interest than being a junior teacher.
I had a science teacher in my second elementary school that asked me to be her assistant in teaching younger kids. I got out of something tedious, and I really enjoyed the hands-on helping with testing acids and bases, and creating circuits.
I know that this is not how gifted kids are supposed to be treated — gifted advocates hate it when gifted kids are made into little TAs — but honestly I think these teachers were doing the best they could with the resources at hand, and they did it in a way that made me feel they were trying to help me, not just get me out of the way.
I think I can say with some confidence that I am not merely forgetting good junior high teachers — junior high was awful, and many of my teachers disliked me. I got kicked out of the honors track, though I quickly got put back in for math. (Maybe I’ll do a bad teachers post.)
High school was not a lot better, but there again there were those few teachers who made things tolerable. What I think they had in common was that they were encouraging me to look beyond where I was and consider the future. They seemed to sympathize with my situation and wanted me to know that a wider world of education was out there.
Many times I’ve talked about grade acceleration and college — how much they saved me, how much they opened a new world to me. I think of this when I think of my kids’ education and hope that I am enabling them to have the same opportunity that I had. When I consider how crucial that was for me, I can’t help but worry about high school transcripts, and having a compelling record of activities and achievements.
What I’ve also come to consider in talking with other homeschoolers, however, is that (I hope) my children won’t need saving. They won’t need me to say, “Hang in there, something better is coming,” because they’ve had something better all along.
I’m sure I need to note that “better” does not mean “better than any conceivable school experience” but “better than feeling that you must get out of school in order to stretch and learn.”
Thinking this through, I feel more grateful than before for the good teachers I had. School was always going to be an awkward fit for me, but I have tended to focus on the negative experiences that made it hard. Now I can appreciate the efforts of those who made it much less bad that it could have been.
What those teachers gave me were the gifts of understanding my frustration, helping me find funky little places to fit, and not belittling my desire for something more.
(That last one stings even now — if there is a constant among bad teachers . . . )