Importance of Teaching
As a young girl, I both excelled and struggled at school. When I understood the lesson being taught, I mastered it quickly and easily. When I did not, it was like I had hit a roadblock that no one could break down. Leaving me swinging back and forth between feeling brilliant and also like a complete idiot all of the time. Sometimes, I would experience a whole day, or even week, of feeling quite clever before being flung back into feelings of complete inadequacy. Other times, I would shift back and forth many times in a single day. This was not helped by my love of being around other people and wanting desperately to communicate with them. There is not much time for socializing in the course of an American school day. At least, not when I was a child. These behavioral ‘issues’ or ‘distractions’ as my teachers saw them were treated with bad marks on my report cards and frequent reprimanding at home.
At some point during my time in the second grade my parents must have noticed I was struggling. But they also saw that beyond my poor behavior was a bright, curious, intelligent child. So they sought help from outside of my public school. I am not exactly sure where they decided to take me. But, I remember it was a long drive into the city, away from our home in the suburbs. I don’t remember much of the drive, or the way that the campus looked, or even walking inside. Only images of trees overhead as we drove underneath come to mind now. But I remember the doctor. Not his name, or exactly what he looked like, but I remember what he asked of me upon entering his office.
I felt very nervous as I entered his office. There was fine wood everywhere I looked. And many books on the shelf behind the man I only remember now as the doctor. To my knowledge, he was an academic doctor and not a psychologist, or psychiatrist. Though, it is certainly possible that he may have been both. He did not scare me. However, the idea of being evaluated did. From my limited, and immature, perspective, an evaluation meant pass of fail, smart or dumb, good or bad. There was no room for grey areas in my mind, at this point in my life.
After a few moments of him asking fairly basic questions about me, such as: What is your name? How old are you? What do you enjoy doing? Etc., he handed me a sheet of plain white paper and asked me if I had ever made a paper airplane before. I told him that I had not and he proceeded to ask me to try and make one anyway. I did my best. But, I had no idea what I was doing and I felt a lot of very heavy emotions about that. I felt embarrassed, dumb, and foolish. And, worse, I thought for sure that I had failed the test. After trying on my own, and in my mind failing, to make an adequate airplane. He handed me another piece of paper. This time, he showed me step by step how to make an airplane with his own piece of paper and asked me to follow along to make another airplane of my own. I did as he asked, and succeeded at creating my own, actually flyable, paper airplane. The small amount of time he gifted to me, to show me what to do, helped erase every negative feeling I had been carrying just moments before. After the airplane challenge, my evaluation was complete and I was sent on my way. Unfortunately, for reasons unknown to me, that was the last time I saw the doctor and I continued to attend public school. Where my teachers did not have the appropriate amount of resources, or time, to treat each individual student with the type of attention that I, and probably so many other students, clearly needed to grow to our full potentials. The negative feelings came back, and I took it out on myself both internally and externally for many years.
Fast forward almost twenty years. I am now a mother of three, kind, curious, energetic young children of my own. As I spend an afternoon picking up paper airplanes we’ve made off of the living room floor, I remember the doctor again. For the first time in almost twenty years, he pops into my mind with one of the most important lessons I ever learned. At a time when I very much needed to hear and remember it. As I stared at the white airplane in my hand I realized something that had not even crossed my mind on the day that I spoke with the doctor. I realized that he was trying to show me something so much bigger and more important than passing or failing an evaluation. By asking me to attempt something he knew I had never done, he was asking me to step out of my comfort zone and try something new. My willingness to try in the face of heavy discomfort said something about me that I could not see the importance of as young girl. I saw it now, holding an airplane made by my own child in my hands. The time he took to show me the steps, and how easy the task was for me once I knew them, showed me something else I didn’t fully comprehend that day so long ago. I understood it now. I wasn’t bad, or dumb, or inadequate for failing at things. I simply hadn’t been taught all the steps I needed to know in order to succeed. The paper airplane was an evaluation that probed so much deeper than a simple pass or fail. He wanted me to see that life is not pass or fail, it is try or give up, learn or stagnate. And, more importantly now than ever before, for me personally, was the realization that a good, or bad, teacher can make all the difference in whether a young mind continues to try, or decides to give up.
As a society, we must take notice of this. We need to take our jobs of raising and teaching children more seriously. We need to pour every resource we can into teachers and schools. Because they are our frontline in creating the future. Entire generations can be saved or lost at the hands of our education system. Children are not one size fits all, and our schooling methods must reflect that. Their innocence and curiosity deserve to be preserved and nurtured. It is the job of every adult to recognize that, whether they have chosen to have children, or not, and whether they have chosen the profession of teaching, or not, their every day actions are teaching and modeling acceptable behavior to future generations at all times. It is all of our responsibilities to step up and be better teachers. The future is worth the time it takes to help a child learn in ways they understand, and in ways that build them up both internally and externally. We can do better. We must do better.
About the Creator
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
Wow. This had me hooked. Did you ask later if there was meaning behind the doc's action? Nonetheless, I assume you didn't want to, because lessons are what we take from them.