Sunday, September 28, 2014

Making a Difference

                      Making a Difference

I think that most of us can remember (hopefully)  at least one teacher that has touched our lives in a positive way. I know that it might sound corny but the teacher that has had the biggest influence in my life is my father. My father has made a lasting impression on me as both a student and a teacher.
I had the privilege of having my dad as a teacher. He was such a positive teacher. He touched the lives of so many children. Through the years I have had conversations with some of his previous students who tell me how much they loved my dad. He was a Phys. ed. teacher and he was ahead of his time. His goal was to get all kids to reach their personal best. One of his previous students  told me once that he was never the athletic type and that he had a hard time time in gym. However gym class became one of his favorite classes because of my dad. I know that when I had my father as a teacher, I wanted to reach my personal best and I was proud when I did.  His energy and enthusiasm were contagious.
He taught half of the school population every year, but he knew each kid. When I went to Henry Barnard,there were some pretty tough kids that I went to school with. They had the  utmost respect for my father because he had respect for them. Nakkula p26. states that as teachers we "are often reminded of our own adolescence, and the decisions we made," and how we resolved those challenges. My dad had a pretty hard childhood. I don't think that he forgot that and he used his own experiences to relate to his students on a more personal level.
I also had the opportunity to observe and work with my father many times when I was studying to be a teacher. I learned so much from this experience. I have never met a person that had such a love of children and a joy for teaching.


I have had a pretty good life. I have been lucky to be supported buy family, friends, I have had the privilege of a good education, and I have a good job. In spite of all of that, I have had to deal with some incredibly hard things in my life. It is those experiences that I bring when I am trying to relate to my students. Nakkula p49. explains that "Thinking is modeled for us, we connect with it, and we learn from it." We create our own thinking through the connections that we make with others. Too many students do not have good role models in their lives. They are connecting to the wrong people.  I want to be a good role model for my students. I want to show them that even when things are hard there is always a way to overcome adversity. We might not come from the same backgrounds, but I think that it is possible for us to relate on some level.

I agree with Lightfoot when she argues that adolescents must must challenge adult authority  to develop autonomy, and I also agree that they do not need to engage in risky behavior to do so. I am proud of all the after school activities that Bain provides. Teachers and administration have worked together to find money to keep as many kids involved in activities after school as we can. It was easier a few years ago when we had after school sports the arts, and other clubs, however the city cut the budget and all those programs went away. They only clubs they have not cut are Student Council and Science Olympiad. The examples of Janine and Julian can be found in every school. It enrages me both as a parent and an educator that too many of the programs that would provide a perfect opportunity for students to challenge themselves are being cut.



  1. Mary,
    I think it is so interesting that young people are challenged to take risks and try out new things, but schools are cutting more and more of the opportunities for them to do so. The reality is that most students would not be able to afford private music lessons or private art lessons, or in some cases their parents do not have the time or money to put them in city sports, so schools would provide all the opportunities for them. With so many budget cuts and so many activities being skinned down to almost nothing there are less and less opportunities for kids to take risks that are healthy. This may explain why students are taking more dangerous risks. They feel the need to try out new things, but those new things are being taken away from them.

  2. Hi Mary,

    I am going to piggy back on what Allie said about the extra curricular activities being cut leaving large gaps in the children's opportunities for development. Now I haven't done the research on this so at this point it is anecdotal, but I do recall at least one school on MA (I think) that diverted money away from metal detectors and increased security and put it into music program (I think ... they may have added other programs). In either case, I recall that school having some significant level of success in reducing the need for the metal detectors in the first place (I wish could find more on this, but I can't right now).
    Otherwise, I agree with you Mary that at times having the time person take some interest in you can make all the difference in how you react and respond the the chaos going on around you. I feel that what you wrote about is a big reason that I continue to teach.