By Baptiste, Barbara
In the historically speaking “Good Old Days,” more than a century and a half ago, Horace Mann told school boards that they needed to view themselves as “sentinels stationed at the door of every schoolhouse in the State to see that no teacher ever crosses its threshold who is not clothed, from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot, in garments of virtue! I had the good fortune to attend a co-ed Catholic High School. Oh, the teachers (nuns) sure were clothed in garments of virtue! I cannot imagine what this group of dedicated women would ever think of today’s Educational Code of Ethics. They had a much higher power to whom they had to answer. The good Sisters of Charity were not so much concerned with students’ sensibilities as they were with making sure the little darlings learned their lessons, and learned them well!
Actually, the essence of most of the Code of Ethics would/could be cited, but interpreted differently. In days gone by, it was the teacher’s job to teach and it was the parent’s duty to raise the child with good manners, sense of right and wrong, and home security.
My teachers were very strict, expected an awful lot and were not terribly concerned if a child was upset because they may have felt left out or discriminated against when openly placed in the failing section. The message was: Study harder, work harder if you do not care to be included in the failure pile.
The nuns were nothing if not devoted to the task of teaching; they, themselves, had to be very well versed. The school had an extremely low attrition rate, most went on to college (in a time when that was not the norm), and most all went on to have productive and successful lives. Perhaps teachers today have too much responsibility and certainly not enough family support or administrative backing. Less concern with protecting the student and more attention to the quality of teaching might be a good balance between the old (school) and the new. Teachers who have strong verbal and mathematics skills and know their subject matter very well seem to be much more effective than teachers who are less prepared and/or less confident.
It is because of a strong educational foundation that I was able to return to school so very many years later and successfully pass the college placement tests, meeting the challenge of college curriculum. As with most in life, I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but I do now. So thank you to all the dedicated teachers who have made a difference in my life.
Lastly, teachers need to be passionate about what they do. Few would challenge that the essential mix of passion, skill, and knowledge is the recipe for good teaching.
As an aside, I had completed the mandated class observations, ending with kindergarten. Though I wasn’t able to interact, the children would look at me in question—sometimes expecting a response. All I could offer was a smile, and it was accepted. Perhaps the first important element for good teaching is simply a smile. It is the universal language of non threatening communication.
“Speak tenderly to them. Let there be kindness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile, in the warmth of your greeting. Always have a cheerful smile. Don’t only give your care, but give your heart as well” – Mother Teresa