Back to School #1: You Learn, They Teach

Begrudgingly, I’ve been thinking back-to-school thoughts.  (The “begrudging” part is due to the fact that there are few things I love more than summer in Maine. And August’s final week marks the beginning of my annual observance of seasonal denial.)

Anyway, maybe this time is good for one thing: a few blog posts that might be of use to kids about to return to school.  Here’s the first one…

#1: Utilize your teachers as wisdom-transmitters rather than discipline-dispensers.

Years ago, during my headmaster days, a distinguished math teacher and former headmaster – let’s call him Mr. Arthur – from one of America’s most prestigious prep schools, retired to Bath.  I have always considered one of my significant accomplishments as head of school to have been that of landing him for a 1-year teaching/coaching assignment.  Near the end of that year, during our one-of-a-kind faculty evaluations – teacher on the stage, kids firing away live with direct comments, etc. – a student said to Mr. Arthur, “You’re a really good math teacher but… you’re too nice.”

Perplexed, Mr. Arthur later visited my office.  Clearly troubled by the comment, he asked, “How can anyone be too nice?  I don’t know how to be any other way.”

While a full explanation of the dynamics involved here doesn’t fit with a blogging format, let’s just say that I was privy to the fact that this particular student mustered precious little initiative when it came to the study of mathematics.  He essentially relied on his teachers to be increasingly creative in discovering ways to require/make/force him to fulfill even his most minimal obligations to his courses.  After assessing the situation, I observed to a colleague, “Using Mr. Arthur primarily to make you pay attention and do your homework is like buying a Ferrari for trips to the town dump.”

So, don’t force your teachers to waste their creative energies on getting you to do what you’re supposed to do.  That’s on you.  Challenge your teachers to help you increase your understanding of the academic subject at hand.  That’s on them.

Onward,  Malcolm Gauld