I sat feeling like my caged chest had opened up, I remember it well. I don’t remember the exact content, I don’t remember what day it was; I always remember things by what they feel like.
I do know I was 15, and in a maths class. My teacher sat on the edge of my desk patiently explaining the material, and if I looked like I didn’t understand it he would use diagrams and become even more patient, as opposed to impatiently huffing; which is what I was used to.
It all of a sudden clicked, and I felt like Neo must have felt on seeing the matrix… AHA! That’s how you do it. well what do you know I started getting 90-100% in my tests after that. Prior to that I had been under the false impression that I didn’t know how to do maths and that it was my worst subject. I stopped excelling however, when I began to notice sniggers around me every time he would sit on the edge of my desk, and it became the ‘sir fancies Ema’ show. It is unfortunate that those who want to learn are seen as a joke, or as a teacher’s pet. I am sure my maths teacher thought he had lost me in the rabble of misbehaved youths, and he had.
Backtrack 2 years to a physics and chemistry class, not only did I believe I was also crap at sciences, but this one was in a second language in another country. This teacher was astounding and has so far been the best teacher I have ever had. A little grey haired lady with a nurturing patience who saw something in me that not many saw. By the time she was finished with me I knew exactly where everything was on the periodic table of elements, what the properties were, how to work out where they were, and some! Everything was an infinite possibility in her classes.
She gave me a gift before I left, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. She saw me and what I was about before I even saw myself.
Now imagine if all teacher training involved harnessing their compassion and empathy as well as a passion for their subject material. Imagine if they learned patience for not just those that seem willing to learn, but even those that seem to want nothing but trouble and jokes. What if they were taught not to rise to that, but to gently challenge it with love. Not all teachers can get through to everyone, but if all teachers were patient and empathetic, surely the amount of pupils that could be reached would rise.
Imagine a world where youngsters are being given chances to understand, by being understood. Imagine they come in from whatever home life they have and at school their minds and hearts light up because a world of possibilities is opened to them, and they can see there are other ways to be, other ways to deal with people and other things to do. They can see it through the way their teachers light up with their love of the subject, but also through the way that no matter how much they misbehave, the teacher insists on responding with respect and calm. Imagine misbehaving kids seeing nothing but respectful, calm and firm reactions around them, no anger or resentment to feed theirs. I believe they would eventually emulate the behaviour they constantly see around them. They could be taught to understand anger, but not rise to it.
Then just maybe, they are not stupid or crap. Maybe, it turns out they are brilliant at anything they choose to direct their full attention to.
Parents are not trained to be teachers, parents can only bring new life in, make sure it has a home, food, love and room to grow. They can only do what they know in terms of being parents. School is where individual characters and passions should be molded, and for a long time now, it seems the system has not been up to it.
I do believe life would radically change for the better if the education system had a major overhaul and something other than rules, statistics, deadline pressure and paperwork was brought in.
All I know is, if all teachers were like mentors instead of power-tripping dictators, instead of apathetic and dissatisfied; most pupils would believe that whatever they want to achieve is just a matter of applying themselves without the crippling doubts, because everything is possible.
Schools need people like my maths and chemistry/physics teachers, so that the world has more people like them and so becomes less dysfunctional.