Lula Francis is a licensed, veteran high school teacher who has taught Science for decades. She has a great deal of experience and is very active in school affairs … extra-curricular activities, chairing committees, rallying parents. The plump, kindly, little lady will gladly tell you what makes her such a fine teacher, should you ask. She was teacher of the year on more than one occasion. No teacher is better qualified to answer questions concerning educators, in my opinion.
I am Andrew Seymour, also a veteran teacher. I teach classes at the same high school. The huge, brick school building sits high on a hill overlooking Magnet Lake far below. Mrs Francis and I are colleagues. As part of a workshop for educators, held in our large, sunny cafeteria with large, round tables, I asked Mrs. Francis these two simple questions:
Q1. What makes a good teacher?
“A good teacher is one who sacrifices his or her personal feelings in order to make the students the first priority,” she says. “Good teachers have to be patient & understanding … they are the ones who go the extra mile without being asked.” I asked her if that was a pat answer to the question and she replied, “It is, and it isn’t – I don’t usually phrase it this way but here it is in nutshell” …
- Good teachers are expert managers – bad teachers are not.
- Good teachers are master organizers – bad teachers are not.
- Good teachers stay current – bad teachers are lazy about current trends.
- Good teachers have a long fuse – bad teachers are abrupt and impatient.
- Good teachers have the ability to inspire – bad teachers do not.
“I won’t qualify any of those comparisons at the moment,” she giggles.
Q2. Why would anyone go into teaching – these days?
She responds this way, “I believe, for some of us, teaching is a calling similar to that of a calling to the priesthood, or to the medical profession. In a sense, we teachers are naturally drawn and compelled to teach.” “It obviously isn’t the salary that draws us,” she continues. “The salary is low, and summer vacations are unpaid. The public may not know that teachers get paid for ten months of the year, rather than twelve.”
Mrs. Francis concludes the impromptu interview by saying, “Teaching is a challenge. Time put into schoolwork before and after hours is daunting. Teaching has to be a calling!” “Your life may be in jeopardy in the schools, these days, but teaching is a need for me. I have to teach.”
The impromptu interview was entertaining and enlightening, for me. If you ‘scratch’ a teacher, there is just another human being underneath, and human beings can be fascinating, for sure.