Thursday, April 1, 2010


by Dave White

I have a theory.

From what I've seen written and heard said, people who are successful rarely remember the good teachers they've had. They remember the teachers who tried to "hold them back" or suggested they couldn't do something.

They remember the bad things. And they use that motivation to get to where they are now.

But in order to get where one is in life, you have to have good teachers. Someone has to help guide you through life, preparing you for what's coming, and teach you something you didn't know.

In my life, I'd say I had more good teachers than bad teachers. I learned a lot in school, and have been inspired and pushed to do something special by more than one. Even the bad teachers I had taught me something. They all helped turn me into a productive member of society.

I teach now. I'm trying to give back to the community as well.

And if there's one thing I know, it's this: Teachers are important.

They are not a group that can be walked over and stepped on, despite the fact people try. People in the private sector like to say we don't work hard or enough, and we're paid too much.

People in the private sector have no idea what we go through. School has changed, and most of us are not the teacher that you hated. We're the one that you've forgotten. The teacher you loved.

Most of us try to get to each and everyone of our students. Most of us try to get students motivated, get them to look at life a new way.

We are not in it for the paycheck.

That's not to say we don't deserve a paycheck. Because we do. We helped make you what you are now. There should be a price tag on that.

Cops help. They should make more money.

Fire Fighters help. They should make more money.

Teachers influence and inspire.

I know the economy is rough right now. I know this is a bad times to be asking for this. But when the economy turns and people in the private sector start collecting bonuses again and making money hand over fist...they'll still believe cops, firefighters, and teachers are paid too much.

There are people who are bad at every job. There are bad teachers, cops, firefighters. Bad writers. Bad governors. Bad businessmen. Bad athletes.

But the majority of people try hard, work hard, and earn their money.

So, I'm sorry if this isn't specifically crime fiction related today. But I have to say, without teachers, I wouldn't be a crime fiction writer.

Without teachers, I wouldn't know what to do.

Teachers are not a blight on society. They are not the dredge of society. They should be honored for what they do.

I hope you pepper the comments section with memories of your favorite teachers.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Good teachers saved my husband. He was skipping school, hanging out, getting into trouble, but an English teacher got him reading books he picked out especially for him--he gave him his own copies-- and talking about them after school. My husband went on to become a college teacher. And in every class, he mentions books beyond the curriculum that they should read, movies they should see, music they should know. But in a low-keyed way like his teacher did. An invitation not a command.
For a movie about what a good teacher can do, see, PRECIOUS.

Gerald So said...

We're all tempted to say we've surpassed our teachers, especially in the areas we make our careers. I think the most important lesson a student can learn is that education depends on the student almost as much as it does the teacher. No teacher is perfect; no person is; but a student's willingness can and should make up for a teacher's flaws. The knowledge and experience we seek on our own is often what we learn best, but as Dave says and Patti comments, someone has to light the fire.

Anonymous said...

I only remember two really bad teachers. One was teaching over our heads. Nice lady, and probably someone who would do well teaching creative writing at the college level, but not someone who needed to be teaching high school students who could barely hack Hawthorne. The other was usually drunk and angry.

But I remember the good teachers more...

I remember Mr. Murphy, who let me turn in rough drafts of creative writing assignments because I got a bit ambitious with them.

I remember Mr. Lake, who admitted he was borderline Marxist during the Cold War (a big no-no back then), but dammit, if you were going to criticize Reagan, you'd better back it up with something other than the lyrics to a Bruce Springsteen song.

I remember Mr. Horvath, who taught us American history with an unvarnished look at the country's warts.

In middle age, I have Ms. Thompson handling my final English Comp class. She also has become a fan of my writing.

Hmm... Maybe Mrs. Snell wasn't teaching over my head after all. It just took a while to sink in.

The other guy was still an angry drunk. We won't mention his name here.

Mike Dennis said...

As a survivor of a mediocre public school, a good prep school, and two universities, I had what I consider two very good teachers.

One was a guy named Carroll Quigley, who taught Development of Civilization at Georgetown University. He was a captivating speaker whose depth of knowledge was breathtaking. Bill Clinton, who was in my class with him, referenced him in his acceptance speech when he was nominated for president.

The other, and far more influential, was Madeline Smith, who taught me typing at said mediocre public school. It's a skill that has benefitted me ever since I was 17. I've used it in hundreds of different ways tens of thousands of times, and I just can't imagine what it would be like not knowing how to type. Had I not learned this important skill, I don't know how I could've gotten along in life.

She passed away a few years ago, and I had the occasion to meet up with her son, about my age. I told him I thought his Mom was the greatest teacher I ever had.

Dana King said...

I guess this is more evidence that I am unsuccessful: I remember mostly good teachers. Like Mr. Boario, who gave me a love of history in 7th grade with his entertaining and vivid lectures. Or Mr. Eberhardt (8th) and Mr. Jones (12th) who taught me the intricacies of civics and democracy. Many others come to mind as I get to thinking about it.

The best was a teacher at all, not by profession. I was a trumpet major in graduate school, studied with Charles Schlueter of the Boston Symphony. I haven't played seriously in over 15 years now, and hardly at all in 10, but not a day gos by I don't do something because of what I learned from him.