Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Lessons Recalled

A week of fun-in-the-sun, spent laying on the beaches of the British Virgin Islands, left a colleague of ours tanned, relaxed, and ready for the envious ribbing he knew he'd be receiving from the partners left behind in cold, cloudy, Cleveland. After lauding the merits of SPF 30, he finally admitted getting a little sunburn on his back, which already was beginning to peel. Soon we were all recounting the somewhat twisted joys of peeling sunburned skin.
I smiled as I recalled a similar conversation some thirty years ago, with my ninth grade algebra teacher. How funny it is, after all of the lessons suffered, problems discussed , and equations solved, the information I remember most clearly from that class was a casual commentary about sunburn.
As teachers, we spend countless hours preparing our lessons. We research, we write, we gather materials. We pre-test, present, practice, apply, quiz, test, post-test, and re-test. Yet, studies have shown, almost 80% of the actual content taught in high school is forgotten in a few years, if it is not applied in a student's day-to-day life. What will be remembered are the things we spend little or no time thinking about. Our attitude, our enthusiasm, our sense of humor (or lack of it), the way we treat students. Were we rigid, were we fair, were we forgiving? Did we take time to listen, or were we impatient? Our students will remember for a lifetime casual conversations that we will forget that day as we drive home.
It is almost daunting to realize that some of our most influential lessons come not from what we teach, but from who we are.


teen girl said...

It shouldn't be daunting, I mean what's more important to you? Some -what seems and feels like- jibberish that you know you won't need again unless you're pursuing an interest in that area (except on tests and SATs and ACTs), or something that moves you? Something emotional? For instance, everyday in art class, it's only a small group, a pretty close group, too, because we've been with each other for two years. We all are working, but at the same time, chatting, making irrelevant conversation. Sometimes we get into debates, sometimes the whole class is laughing at some stupid joke or another. I love it. If I were working in the dead silence, I'd only remember how hard it was to get this color, or how difficult it was to have the wanted effect. Which I still remember anyway. And my art teacher joins in too, ah, she's a crazy, intimidating woman, but we all love her and respect her greatly. I already know, that years from now, it will mean a lot for me. She did a lot for me. And if I reach my goal of getting into an art school, specifically Cleveland Institute of Art, then it'll be her who I would thank first. (Heh, oh by the way, I've had conversations about sunburn too, in seventh grade. Literature class. First period.)

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