Recent debates about educational reform have centered on who shouldn’t be teaching. People who like to talk about ed reform are spending lots of money and time trying to eliminate due process so that teachers can be disposed of easily. Of course they are only going to dismiss the “bad teachers.” I am certain they have a magic formula somewhere that explains what a “bad teacher” is.
But, I want to stay positive. What do we want a teacher to be? Let’s go back to the very beginnings in the creation of someone who would make a great teacher. In a perfect world a great teacher might have two parents who were teachers. This might not be practical in all cases, but a young person with parents as teachers would know the challenges and the joys of teaching. A great young teaching prospect should also be smart and talented. If the young person had been an All-State musician or qualified for national conferences in his academic career that would be a great thing right? Most importantly wouldn’t we want a great young teacher to be kind, thoughtful and empathetic?
There are young people out there like this. As a matter of fact I have to admit that I’m describing a very specific young man. My son is turning 16 years old today. I am hijacking my little blog today to share how proud I am of him. If you had asked me 16 years ago what I wanted my 16 year old son to be like I would have said that I hoped he was kind, thoughtful and empathetic. I would have hoped that he would want to talk about sports and music with me. I would have hoped that he would pick wonderful young people to be friends with. Mostly I would have hoped that he would love his mother and father. Wishes do come true because that is the son I have.
He would tell you today that he hopes to become a teacher. He will be a great one. He wants the people around him to be successful. I have also used the word empathy a couple of times and I want to share a story about this young man and how I first discovered his empathy. He has been blessed to have four wonderful grandparents who are all very unique. When he was just 3 or 4 years old we traveled during the holidays to visit his Grandpa and Grandma Hecht. At Grandpa and Grandma Hecht’s they set up their house so that he could run wild. They live on a farm so that he could chase cats outside, go sledding down their hill and generally do all of the things that a 3 or 4 year old boy would want to do to potentially injure himself. He came out without a scratch because his grandparents were right there to catch him. He loves them to death. We then turned around to drive and visit Grandpa and Grandma Kearney. Grandpa and Grandma Kearney lived in a house that had lots of expensive stuff on the tables and Grandma Kearney was in a wheelchair and not able to chase the little boy around. When we were at Grandma Kearney’s though, the energetic young boy would sit in his grandma’s lap and read a book. He would talk to his Grandpa about his day care and about games that he liked. He would sit still for long periods of time and just listen. No one told him how to act at each grandparents house, he just knew it. All of those grandparents couldn’t have loved this little boy more.
Even today at 16 years old he has a way of knowing how to make those around him comfortable. Empathy is a trait that is undervalued in my opinion. While my son is smart and talented, it is his empathy that I admire the most. And so, as this 16 year old young man begins his journey into adulthood I think he’s got the tools he needs. I am hopeful that more young people like him might consider the teaching profession. There is no way to scientifically measure many of the skills that will make him a great teacher, but I promise that if you take the time to observe it you will know it when you see it.
My apologies for hijacking the blog today. I am a very proud father. I will be proud of my son whether he becomes a teacher or if he chooses another path for his life. Nothing in life makes me prouder or happier than to say that I am the father of Brogan Lawrence Kearney. He has been nothing but a blessing for 16 years. That little boy who sat on his grandmothers lap and read books with her has become a great young man. He certainly doesn’t have to become a teacher to make me proud. He just needs to keep teaching me how lucky I am.