The Teacher(s) I Wanted to Be

Although I do not currently teach, it is the work I was trained to do, and as the child of two educators, I feel most comfortable in the world of education.  The lack of my own classroom did not keep me from picking up Tim Gunn: The Natty Professor: A Master Class on Mentoring, Motivating, and Making it Work! when I saw it at the library.  In fact, I love Tim Gunn, and I eagerly devoured his insights, as well as the book’s gossipy tidbits about Project Runway, the reality TV show Tim hosts, and the fashion industry.

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The idea that resonated with me most strongly speaks to teachers’ expectations of their students: “‘You have to acknowledge that your students may not want to grow up to be you, and you need to support them in that,'” suggests a chemistry teacher who reached out to Tim online (138). My own greatest classroom insight–not everyone wants an A–touches on this same concept, the danger of assuming your goals and your students’ are the same. For educators, there is nothing innate about this wisdom.  If you are teaching, there is likely nothing you wanted more than to be your teacher when you grew up.

I never wanted to lead my own class, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to be my teachers when I grew up.  Here’s a few I particularly idolized:

  • The elementary school teacher who taught reading, spelling, and handwriting.  She gave out stickers and hugs.
  • The artsy, bohemian teacher.  She taught you English or drama and took you on cool field trips.  Her fashion was always on point.
  • The teacher who was open to classroom discussion.  She may have taught you social studies or political science.  Discussions in her class were invigorating and passionate, sometimes ended in tears, and always involved raised voices.
  • The college professor you called by his/her first name, and who invited your class for a home-cooked meal.  If a man, he wore jeans and an Oxford cloth shirt.  If a woman, she wore long, flowing skirts and her hair in a bun on top of her head.
  • The mentor who was slightly more formal, and possibly British or Canadian.  She offered you research opportunities, and helped you with your graduate school applications.  She changed the course of your life.
  • The mother.  Your mother.  She took her job seriously, but never let it impinge on her time with you.  She probably didn’t hug her students (her hugs were for you), or call them her “kids” (you were her kid), but she would treat you fairly and with respect.  She would fight for you to get the help you needed.  No matter what.

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