Most of the kids are back in school now. My daughter has been back to school for almost a month. She’s in first grade now and a pro at the whole school thing (or so she thinks). All summer long she waited anxiously to find out who her first grade teacher would be. She really wanted one particular teacher, and when I asked why, she said it was because that teacher is nice and pretty. It doesn’t take a lot to impress elementary kids.
My daughter didn’t get that teacher, but she was happy with the one she got because her teacher has long hair. She’s also nice and pretty, but the long hair clinched it. I don’t remember ever caring about my teachers’ hair or if they were pretty or not. In 7th grade I did have a male teacher who was good looking. His name was Coach Mali, and I think his looks were more distracting than helpful.
Every kid wants a nice teacher, though. My favorite teacher was also one of the nicest. Her name was Mrs. Fannett, and she taught eleventh grade English. The class was not easy. Mrs. Fannett was not easy. We had to learn about infinitives and gerunds (something I never understood until I taught 10th grade English myself!) and read books like The Scarlet Letter and Faulkner’s The Bear. Now I love a lot of classic literature. I adore Shakespeare and Dickens, and I like Twain too. I did not, and never will, love Hawthorne and Faulkner. I respect those authors and their talent, but they’re just downers. Oh, and don’t even get me started on Hemingway.
But somehow Mrs. Fannett made those books accessible. Somehow she got me to read them and, if not enjoy them, understand them. She pushed me to be a better writer. She pushed me to find a better word, a more descriptive phrase, a more complex sentence. Writing was always one of my best subjects. I could get an A with very little effort. Mrs. Fannett made me want the A+.
When I taught middle and high school English I tried to be a teacher like Mrs. Fannett. I don’t know if I succeeded. The most frequent comment students gave me was about how calm I was.
Hmm. Well, I guess calm is a compliment of sorts, considering some of the chaotic places I taught. I would have preferred inspiring or fascinating, but kids tell us the truth, not what we want to hear. Maybe if my hair had been longer?
Do you have a favorite teacher? Or maybe your kids had a great teacher. What made him or her so great?