I read an interesting column by Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times about the worth of good teachers. His column was actually about great teachers and reported on a study that showed that “the difference between a strong teacher and a weak teacher lasts a lifetime.”
He quoted some statistics that indicate a student is 1.25 percent more likely to go to college and 1.25 percent more likely not to get pregnant in high school if they have a great fourth grade teacher. While those are not huge numbers, they do represent individual students who did better because of the influence of one particular teacher. Those are students who have most likely grown up to be productive citizens and are not perpetuating an endless cycle of dropping out and either scrabbling for living or relying on government handouts for survival.
I remember that fourth grade was a pivotal year for most of my kids as they made their way through elementary school, and they did have a great teacher. She also happened to be a good friend and neighbor and to this day I thank her for being such a great influence on my kids, especially our oldest son.
David did not have a stellar academic career, in elementary school or high school, but it would have been much worse had he not had Ginger Liening as a teacher. He had a horrible time in third grade and was ready to run away from home and school both at the thought of another school year starting. Ginger, to her credit, didn’t judge him on his past school experience or behavior. She encouraged him to start with a clean slate, so to speak, and I’m sure it was her mentoring that kept him from dropping out of school entirely.
So I agree with Kristof that school districts should find a way to keep those stellar teachers and weed out the weaker ones. Maybe then there would be a huge jump in the numbers of kids encouraged on to much better things.
On another note, I hope you will come back on Wednesday when Morgan Mandel is my guest. She is sharing some interesting facts about the Fountain of Youth, as well as a short excerpt from her latest book, Forever Young: Blessing or Curse