I recently learned that one of my intermediate elementary teachers from my days as a student is retiring after 39 years. This particular guy (Mr. Sears) was probably the initial driving force in my developing an interest in becoming an educator (many other great teacher solidified this passion as I went through school). The crazy thing is, I can't remember a single thing he taught me, and I had him two consecutive years!
This is in no way to imply that he wasn't teaching his students or serious about his job. Now that I'm an administrator, I have pre-conferences with teachers who believe that what administrators want to see, or what great teaching is, involves passionate teacher led lecture. It isn't, and only a small percentage of real masterful orators can pull off this style of teaching
What I remember about my two years with Mr. Sears was that I loved coming to school everyday. It was fun! One gimmick I vividly remember was that you had to roll dice to gain access to any privilege. For example, if you wanted to use the washroom, you called 'high or low' on a die and if if your number came in you go to go. If it didn't, you went back to your seat and crossed your legs till recess.
We loved this! In two years not a single student wet their pants in the classroom and I recall no word of bladder related illnesses with any of my classmates. No parent advocacy groups were necessary here. I'm sure that routine was long retired before he announced his own retirement. These days such a gimmick would get you labeled a degenerate gambler, a violator of civil liberties, and result in your termination (and probably a law suit as well). Back then though, it was just fun.
His whole class was like that. If you wore the rival teams jersey he'd make you write 10 times that your team stunk. If your desk was messy he dumped it down the stairs. Everything had a gimmick to go along with it, and everyone wanted to be in his class.
The message here is that while curriculum and instruction are important, they do not replace the human being element of teaching. Relationships are critical and will help our profession sustain itself through absurd government mandates, bad leadership, 'magic bullet' curriculum, new technology, and all the other changes that threaten our work.
Further, creating a love of school in a child means you've done your job regardless of what any standardized tests tells you. But you can't create a love for learning by pummeling kids with homework and other tools of compliance passed along as lessons in responsibility. Getting them to the table is the first step to getting them to eat.
Congratulations on fine career Mr. Sears and best wishes in your retirement. To all those joining him in retirement after a career in education- thank you for your service to children. It remains a wonderful and important job.