04 June 2015

Teaching outside the curriculum

Last week, I attended our spring NHS induction. At this event, each senior member of the club has the opportunity to honor a staff member who they felt was a mentor to them over their 4 years of HS. It was an honor to be selected by one of my former students and even more so to hear the amazing things she said about me in her speech.

Some of the stories were very moving. Two students talked about their art teacher who they referred to as Mom; one student talked about how the teacher created a safe place for her to visit; four students spoke about their coach and how he taught them to be better men; one talked about a substitute teacher and the impact he had on her. But I think the most emotional speech was given by the young man who spoke about how hard high school was for him, how he probably wouldn't have made it through the four years without his history teacher. This teacher taught him lessons about life, taught him that no matter how tough life seems his spirit is tougher. I got the distinct impression that this student might have just dropped out of school altogether if he hadn't had this particular teacher during his sophomore year.

Through every speech, the same thought ran through my head: where are these life lessons in the curriculum?

We measure a teacher's effectiveness based on his/her ability to complete a curriculum. But where in the evaluation process is mentoring young people? Is there a way to quantify that? If a teacher was a mediocre instructor, but found a unique way to connect with his students and help them find meaning in school, shouldn't that be used in measuring his effectiveness?

Maybe we need to take a closer look on what the term "effective" really means.