The Power of a Teacher

Posted on: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 09:00

My husband and I were leaving Starbucks when a man approached us and asked if my husband was Dr. Alban. When my husband replied, “yes,” the man introduced himself as John, a former special education student. He thanked my husband for saving his life and explained that it was my husband’s belief in him and support of him as he finally passed the Maryland Functional Math test that enabled him to get a high school diploma. (This test was Maryland’s high school graduation requirement in the late 1980s and early 1990s.) Having earned a diploma, this young man was able to get a job with the Maryland Park Service; he loved his job and was able to support his family.

I was touched by John’s words, and my husband’s response made me incredibly proud. He thanked his former student for the compliment, but noted that it was John’s hard work that had made him successful on the test and on the job.

My husband is an excellent math teacher, but John’s words reflect that students rely on teachers for far more than just content. My husband conveyed to his students that they could do the math if they worked hard and persevered. His belief in them gave them confidence. His encouragement assured they kept trying. His high expectations became their high expectations and enabled them to reach the goal. This is how he made a difference for his students in the 1980s, and it is how teachers make a difference for students in the 21st Century.

Recently, Dr. Bill Daggett spoke to FCPS leaders about the technological advances of the 21st Century and the challenges this poses for students and teachers. Given the exponential growth of technology and daily advances in the power of instructional technology in particular, he asked us to consider whether teachers might someday (soon) be obsolete.

I’ll admit that as a lifelong educator, I found that question a little scary. Fortunately, Dr. Daggett acknowledged that while technology will be critically important for our 21st Century learners (as it is already in many ways), teachers will need to continue to instill the “soft skills” that will ensure success in a rapidly changing world. It’s hard for technology to teach inherently human skills like effective communication, creativity, collaboration, and perseverance in the face of challenges. These are skills that great teachers know how to bring out in their students, as my husband did with the former student we ran into.

Dr. Daggett concluded, and I completely agree, that “teachers are our greatest hope.”

If this blog makes you want to thank a teacher, please do so! Please share your thoughts with me on Twitter @FCPSMDSuper. And if you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share it on Facebook or Twitter.