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.