You may have heard this maxim about writing good stories. It’s “show me, don’t tell me.” Rather than just telling me the speaker was angry, show me he was angry by his actions: His faced reddened; he banged on the table; he stormed out of the room.
That same principle applies to good teaching. Besides just telling their students, good teachers show their students. They get them involved; they even let them do something themselves, something that might actually be enjoyable. They know that if they do it right, learning can be fun.
V.C. Allison, my science teacher in high school, knew that. Instead of just talking about insects, V.C. got students involved. One day, he fried some grasshoppers in the classroom and invited brave souls to have a bite. (They taste a lot like okra.)
Caye Guidry knows that. Caye has been teaching for 34 years, and here’s what she says about retiring: “I’ll retire when I don’t wake up excited to go to work every morning. But that may never happen.” She is working on her doctorate so that she can teach teachers when she finally does retire, if that ever happens.
Joseph Lloyd “Doc” Johnson knows that learning can be fun. Doc, one of the smartest people I know, wanted to demonstrate to a group of young summer-campers how to build a log cabin. But first he needed a mule to show how American pioneers snaked logs from the woods to the home site. The city frowns on folks who keep live mules in close neighborhoods, so Doc bought and equipped a mule made of fiberglass and memories. He called his show “Mules and Tools.” He got youngsters involved in using the tools, and everybody learned.
Folks at the Fernbank Science Center in Atlanta know that learning can be fun. They built an exhibit called “The Scoop on Poop.” It’s a full-blown exhibit proving that animals and their deposits can be fascinating, scientific stuff. The exhibit is done tastefully, if that’s the right word. Our grandchildren were enthralled. (Did you know an adult elephant can fill the trunk of your car with just one day’s worth of droppings, if that’s the right word?)
So, now, think back to your childhood — to your school days. Are your most vivid memories of something a teacher told you or actually showed you how to do? A person might tell you how to clean up after an elephant, and you’d probably forget. But if he showed you how and you actually did it … , well, you get the idea.
Teaching, I learned from V.C. and Caye and Doc and Fernbank, does not have to be boring. “It’s so unboring,” Caye Guidry says.
My suggestion is this: If you remember a special teacher in your life or the life of your child, why not say thanks in a note or a phone call.
Like the bumper sticker says, “If you can read this, thank a teacher.” He or she will appreciate it.
— Phil Hudgins, a former community newspaper editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.