Right before Christmas my parents sent me a link to an obituary write up. The obituary told of the passing of a former teacher of mine, Mrs. Kinser whom I had for fifth grade at Indian Valley Elementary in Walnut Creek, CA.
About ten years or so ago was when I decided that I need to take better control of my future, so I made the tough choice to go back to school to become a teacher. Education has always been a mixed bag for me, but since both my parents worked in education for most of their lives it, was modeled for me as a positive career choice. School was never the hardest part, it was the social scene. Or, “how Jeff does not quite know how to fit in here or there”. Going to class and learning was always the fun part as I loved reading, writing, projects, debates, field trips, etc…(noticed how I left out math; always a thorn in my side). Going back to school, even at a Master’s level, still held some trepidation for me.
When I enrolled at Portland State University in their Masters in Education Program I remember very early on a teacher asked all of the class to look back and think about which teachers inspired us to want to go into this profession. This might have even been the first day of school. Of course I had my own parents as models, but then I began to really think about my previous teachers from my life. Of course there were many who left no impression on me, some who left a negative impression, and rising to the surface were those who I remember fondly. Mrs. Kinser was one of the latter.
If you were to pick my brain about what ‘exactly’ she did to inspire me I could not recall. I just don’t know. What I do know is that I loved being in her class everyday, doing whatever she asked us to do. She made school interesting and fun. She had fun! She seldom yelled (at least not at me), she always seemed to listen to me when I spoke up, and I remember that she supported me. She would acknowledge what I had said and would state it back to the class. She made me feel like someone special. I was always a good reader and read well above my grade level and I remember that she thought some of my choices were a little over the top (reading Stephen King’s The Shining, and Jay Anson’s The Amityville Horror were not her cup of tea, but she did not mind me reading them). When I struggled with math, she did her best to help me and never belittled the fact that I was struggling.
As a current teacher I know that I will not inspire all my students, and some will not remember me fondly, even though I am trying to support their learning as best I can. I do know that some students will look back and remember me for how I encouraged, supported, and listened to them. They will remember how much fun learning can be when your teacher is having fun doing the teaching. I think that is something that every teacher in every country needs to remember. As I plan for the Spring Term I do not do it in disdain or look at it as a chore. Rather I look at my planning in a way to make it fun and engaging for both the students and me. If I don’t do this teaching becomes a slog of a job. Mrs. Kinser always had a verve for what she was doing, and this rubbed off on me in a meaningful way. She will always be an inspiration to me and to what I do for children’s education.