The teacher stalked the front of the class like a giant Grizzly Bear. He was tall and skinny, but to me he looked angry like a bear. Every once in a while, he would stop and peer out over his classes, checking to see who was paying attention and who seemed lost.
In that class, most people seemed lost. I know I was.
When the teacher went to the black board and started to lecture, he droned on in a monotone voice that made the simplest English sound like gobbly-gook. You’d shake your head back and forth in vain to stay awake.
When people talk about the state of Education, I think about that class. When people talk about the need for better teachers, I think of the that class.
I went into the class loving the simple practice of playing with numbers and figuring out baseball batting averages. I followed each day’s box score with a passion. If Kansas City Royals third-baseman George Brett went three for four with two runs batted in, I could tell you instantly where he stood in his quest to hit 400.
I loved following the ups-and-downs of the game. I loved the rawness of the numbers and then I took the class and everything changed. The teacher took something I loved and killed it. I mean he killed it. He decimated it. I went in liking math, I walked out hating everything about it.
The other side of the coin
Of course, when people talk about the need for better teachers, I also think of another teacher that same year who one day turned our classroom into Napoleonic France. The teacher got up on his chair and turned half of the class into peasants, a quarter into the noble elite and the final quarter into Napoleon’s Grande Armée.
Another day, our class became ancient Mesopotamia or the Incan Empire. You never knew what to expect. In a few simple acts, he turned a boring text book into something that you could see, touch, and feel right in front of your eyes and struck a match to a lifetime love of history and social studies. I went from dreading the class to scarfing down every history book I could find.
Two different teachers, two different affects. Yes, we need better teachers, but we also need to recognize the great teachers in our lives. They’re everywhere and they make a huge difference.