First Teachers

Teaching teachers—it’s what I thought about doing 20 years ago while finishing Ph.D. studies.

If I teach 100 students to write, I reasoned, I will influence 100, but, if I teach 100 graduate students who will one day teach writing—you do the math—teachers of teachers influence thousands.

But I ended up sticking with first-semester students at a community college, partly because I like being their introduction to college-level learning, and partly because of the role such an educator can play. There’s a reason we remember first grade teachers best.

Because those who teach first teach most. Not only is all (or most) of the material new, but first teachers (in college as well as in public schools) get a chance to shape the moist clay of student attitudes before they harden into recalcitrant habits.

And first teachers do more than cover the subject matter. While Charlotte was teaching first graders, we used to compare notes. We both encouraged study skills, time management and understanding /cooperation between peers. We talked of plans, hard work and hope.

Parents are first teachers. Last night I watched my kids with their kids, and I couldn’t help but notice how much of their interaction was didactic. One doesn’t have to be a professional educator to teach. Parents do it all the time, as do employers, managers, coworkers, even friends.

And every one of my students fits in one of these categories. They are—or will be—teachers. Which means I still get to teach teachers.

Well, sort of.

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