Thursday, May 15, 2014

Teachers and "Nixon is the One!"

Sacred Heart Catholic School, 3rd Grade, at the Idaho Capitol May 14, 2014
On May 14, 2014, I accompanied my son’s third grade class on a tour of the Idaho capitol building. Our son goes to Sacred Heart Catholic School, and I helped his wonderful teacher with some logistics. 

When I was in the third grade myself, I visited the Idaho Capitol building. I have always been interested in politics. In 2nd grade, I supported Nixon in the 1968 election! I still have my old “Nixon Is the One” button! I was eight years old. Our son asked, "Were you always a geek Dad!"

Mark Dunham at the Capitol 1969
Mark Dunham at the Capitol 2014
Because of the Capitol tour, our son has been asking a lot of questions about presidents, Idaho history, and government. Our son’s teacher is a great educator who keeps the kids interested. Keeping third graders interested is a challenge.

But, “Mrs. G” has a way of making learning fun.

I thought a lot about my own teachers from Kindergarten through college. I have a handful of “teachers” who I admire even now. They were not “just teachers,” they embodied the best attributes of teachers. I found a list of teacher attributes from Maria Orlando, EdD in Philosophy of Teaching:

A great teacher respects students. In a great teacher’s classroom, each person’s ideas and opinions are valued. Students feel safe to express their feelings and learn to respect and listen to others. This teacher creates a welcoming learning environment for all students.

A great teacher creates a sense of community and belonging in the classroom. The mutual respect in this teacher’s classroom provides a supportive, collaborative environment. In this small community, there are rules to follow and jobs to be done and each student is aware that he or she is an important, integral part of the group. A great teacher lets students know that they can depend not only on her, but also on the entire class.

A great teacher is warm, accessible, enthusiastic and caring. This person is approachable, not only to students, but to everyone on campus or the school. This is the teacher to whom students know they can go with any problems or concerns or even to share a funny story. Great teachers possess good listening skills and take time out of their way-too-busy schedules for anyone who needs them. If this teacher is having a bad day, no one ever knows—the teacher leaves personal baggage outside the school doors.

A great teacher sets high expectations for all students. This teacher realizes that the expectations she has for her students greatly affect their achievement; she knows that students generally give to teachers as much or as little as is expected of them.

A great teacher has his own love of learning and inspires students with his passion for education and for the course material. He constantly renews himself as a professional on his quest to provide students with the highest quality of education possible. This teacher has no fear of learning new teaching strategies or incorporating new technologies into lessons, and always seems to be the one who is willing to share what he’s learned with colleagues.

A great teacher is a skilled leader. Different from administrative leaders, effective teachers focus on shared decision-making and teamwork, as well as on community building. This great teacher conveys this sense of leadership to students by providing opportunities for each of them to assume leadership roles.

A great teacher can “shift-gears” and is flexible when a lesson isn’t working. This teacher assesses his teaching throughout the lessons and finds new ways to present material to make sure that every student understands the key concepts.

A great teacher collaborates with colleagues on an ongoing basis. Rather than thinking of herself as weak because she asks for suggestions or help, this teacher views collaboration as a way to learn from a fellow professional. A great teacher uses constructive criticism and advice as an opportunity to grow as an educator.

A great teacher maintains professionalism in all areas—from personal appearance to organizational skills and preparedness for each day. Her communication skills are exemplary, whether she is speaking with an administrator, one of her students or a colleague. The respect that the great teacher receives because of her professional manner is obvious to those around her.

For me, these specific teachers made learning fun, interesting and thought provoking:
Twin Falls High School
  • Dorothy Guest, my 4th Grade teacher at Morningside Elementary School in Twin Falls, Idaho.
  • Mary Lu Barry, Twin Falls High School.
  • Susan LaBeau Pliler, Twin Falls High School.
  • Ed Chupa, Twin Falls High School.
  • Dr. Laurel Traynowicz, Ph.D. Boise State University.
  • Dr. Phoebe Lundy, Ph.D. Boise State University.
  • Dr. Barry Asmus, Ph.D. Boise State University.
  • Mark Dunham, BSU Distinguished Alumni, 2012
  • Dr. John Mitchell, Ph.D. Boise State University.
Each of those teachers had an amazing influence on my life. They challenged me so much. They made me think about my biases and my beliefs. Those 7 incredible teachers made me the man that I am today. I am grateful for their mentorship and patience.

I wonder when our son looks back on his teachers, who will be the ones that he will remember? 

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