Thursday, 26 June 2014

CARING TEACHERS


CARING TEACHERS

   I’ve recently read a paper written by John D. Lawry, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of psychology, Marymount College of Fordham University, New York, titled ‘Caring Still Matters’. He discusses the positive long-term impact on college graduates who had a professor/mentor who “stimulated them, cared about them and encouraged their hopes and dreams”, based on a survey of 30,000 graduates in America, as reported in ‘Academe Today’ by Scott Carlson, 9 May, 2014. 63% of those graduates surveyed had a professor who made them excited about learning. However, only 27% had a professor who cared about them and, even less, only 22%, had a mentor who encouraged them to follow their dreams.

   Lawry also mentions other studies/reports that verify the lasting benefits to students who were fortunate enough to have an influential caring teacher at elementary school.

   I had one of those at high school.

From about the age of eight or nine, I became a prolific reader. By the time I was ten, I had the burning desire to become a writer.

   Due to the negative impact of a succession of formative experiences including: the fearful environment of primary school (and later high school) where the teachers meted out brutal corporal punishment at will, without being accountable; and other injustices I was powerless to handle – I chose to become ‘the innocent victim of a cold and heartless world’.

   My self-defeating reaction to these circumstances was to get ‘revenge’ by adopting a stance of non-cooperation, or non-participation in the education process in high school, by doing the minimal to get by and not being involved in anything the school had organized – whether it be academic, sporting or social activities if I could get away with it. Funny thing, my protests had no discernible effect on the high school whatsoever!

   In my second year at high school, Mr. Hodge became my English teacher and remained so for the next four years of schooling. Mr. Hodge, a kind and gentle man and a warm enthusiast for English Literature and Expression, somehow saw a spark of talent in me and gave me much encouragement and support – unlike most of my other teachers who seemed, at best, to be just going through the motions. As a result, I did well in English and that was enough to drag me over the line in my final examinations.

   No, I didn’t go on to pursue a writing career, but settled for safety and the attraction of $s, thus dooming myself to a stultifying and soul-destroying accounting career in industry and commerce.

   At the age of 60 I began writing in my spare time. Since then I’ve written and self-published four books. The underlying theme of most of these works of fiction is self-help/spiritual, based on my life’s experiences with the objective of helping readers (especially Young Adults) learn from my mistakes and avoid some of the pitfalls I’ve encountered along the way.

   Writing, for me, is an extremely satisfying experience and very therapeutic, as I delve into my past and into the murky recesses of my mind and share my voyage of self-discovery with the readers of my books and blogs.

   My high school teacher, Mr. Hodge, stimulated me, cared about me and encouraged my hopes and dreams. I might have been a bit tardy in getting my writing act together, but I will always be grateful for his teaching, enthusiasm and support.

  Has anyone else had a teacher/professor/mentor who recognized your gift in you? Who honoured and challenged you and helped you find your goals and dreams?

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