A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning.

I must have been in the third year of High School when I first noticed Miss Crute, mainly because I had been assigned to her English Literature class for the next term. She was all of five feet three inches high swamped by the black teacher’s gown that all teachers wore at the all-girl grammar school which I attended. She was softly spoken and walked with a quiet dignity, always modelling an outdated beehive and pince-nez spectacles. I couldn’t help but notice as I passed her classes that all students would sit quietly and attentively whilst she spoke and I assumed that was because she was one tough old harridan like many of the other teachers. Consequently, I dreaded the day when I would too be sitting to attention alongside all my classmates listening to yet another mind-numbing lecture.

The very first morning, I slunk into her class and claimed one of the desks at the rear whilst awaiting the hellion herself. As we all made to stand she gestured for us to remain seated before what I came to discover was her usual soft-spoken greeting of “Good Morning Ladies”.

She opened the pages of “To Kill a Mocking Bird” and started to read aloud. In the stillness you could have heard a pin drop and for that short time we all became a captivated audience in the world of Atticus, Scout and Jem. When she stopped reading, it was like a magic spell was broken and we’d all woken up but what followed that and every other reading was a frank and lively discussion of the characters and plot. Unlike many of the other teachers, she actually asked us what we thought and suggested that we put ourselves in that situation; would we too have been as charitable and as fair as Atticus. Thereafter, the week couldn’t pass quick enough until I was back in that classroom listening to Wuthering Heights, Tess of the d’Urbervilles or Great Expectations.

Of course, I never realised it at the time but this gifted teacher was sharing more with us that just an admiration of literature. It was only years later, that I understood that the lessons learned in that dusty old classroom were far more important than just a mutual love of books.

It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.
Albert Einstein

rhonda 1
Picture kindly provided by the talented Rhonda at 50 Shades of Gray Hair

70 thoughts on “A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning.

  1. A dedicated teacher truly can make a lasting impression. And “To Kill a Mockingbird” is one of my favorite books. It sounds as though Miss Crute’s students were well and truly lucky to have studied under her.

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    • I’m not sure – could it be Tracey Beaker? I feel a little sad as my nieces seldom pick up a book and they’re spelling and grammar went unchecked at school because of course, most teenagers these days write in text speak. What a shame!

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  2. As a teacher, I can only hope to leave such an impression on my little 7th graders. :-). And I loved To Kill A Mockingbird and Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Our dog is name after Scout and I did my senior project on Tess. Great post!

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  3. I don’t recall having an English teacher that I felt engaged us like that, but I have to say I learned a LOT in my AP 12th grade English class. We read a book a month and wrote a paper a month, using the five paragraph structure. That structure was an invaluable tool in college, and I can hammer out a paper like nobody’s business!

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  4. So great this teacher inspired in you a love for discussing literature and reading books! I was born a bonafide bookworm so I tended to resent being told what to read in high school English classes. There are very few classics I like because of this, but I have to say my last English teacher I had was pretty good. She even made Shakespeare bearable (and I hate Shakespeare!). It’s amazing how some teachers can transform some content students loathe into something enjoyable.

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  5. I love hearing stories of that one truly great teacher in someone’s life! Mine was Dr. Street, the man who handed me Rebecca and said, “I think you’ll like this.” It was life changing. Your post gave me shivers!

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  6. At a new school in a new state my year 2 teacher kindly took me under her wing and also introduced me to a world of reading and libraries. I’ve never forgotten her kindness.

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  7. This is so true – I had a teacher like that too – in religion and I was so fascinated by the subject, but it didn’t change my life as such and I’m not a believer as such today even.
    Then I had the two worst teachers in cooking and sawing … yes, it was a long time ago – didn’t have any interest in neither during 4 years, all because of the boring teachers … look what happen there, I became a chef and I made my own cloths for years – even coats. Strange how our lives can turn out to be.

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      • It was all because of the teacher I had … in religion – he made it so interesting.
        Can you imagine what chef I could have been … if I had and interesting teacher for cooking too ??? It would have been fun to meet my old teachers today. I think they would be very proud of us.

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  8. Unfortunately I don’t recall any English teacher that was as inspiring as all the books I was already reading for myself. However, I did have an accounting teacher who borrowed my book (a novel, I’d snuck it in as the accounting was getting too easy) and proceeded to lend it to all the other staff! 😀

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  9. I think teachers have an incredibly difficult task – so many kids and huge expectations from parents. The good ones deserve to paid huge salaries. Such an important job to inspire young minds!

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  10. My school years were 1947 to 1958, it seems like 100 years ago! But teachers still stand out though more the eccentric ones, The geography teacher that would throw the blackboard rubber, with deadly accuracy to any one not paying attention, the old lady, Miss Bunny, english teacher that the boys in the class could reduce to tears every week, the sarcastic music teacher that examined our nails before each lesson and would send any one with dirty nails to scrub them clean. But I LOVED Mr Martin the art teacher and retain a love of beauty and nature and art that he taught us to notice.

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  11. It is wonderful you had a teacher that inspired you. Teachers today are burdened (in the US at least) by the rules of teaching to the test. I don’t know that any of them are able to sneak around the rules to inspire. It is sad and terrifying.

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  12. Bravo, Dallas. What a marvelous ode to teachers. beautifully written (as usual.) I too only appreciate my teachers later in life & realise what an incredible job they have.

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  13. There’s no one better than an inspirational teacher. I too was inspired by a great high school English teacher, and then a number of great teachers in college and graduate school. My son recently told me he likes the idea of teaching and inspiring people. No one ever forgets those amazing teachers that led them down paths they might have never explored on their own. 🙂

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  14. My fifth grade teacher used to sit us in a circle on Friday afternoons, pass out a watermelon jolly rancher candy for each of us and read aloud. First was From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. The Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh. And finally, A Wrinkle in Time. All 3 are still on my list of books that I plan to recommend to my now 8 year old….another year and I think he’ll be ready.. I can’t wait.

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  15. Really nice post, Dallas. I envy that you had a teacher who so inspired you. I had nary a one. It could have been that I was ADD prone and not likely to have been paying attention in the first place. However, from about age twelve, I was an avid reader and devoured books from our school library. I’m so excited to be reading more again this year.

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  16. Teachers like this are few and far between y’know. I can’t remember a single inspirational teacher from my time at a Girl’s Grammar school. Remember plenty of bad ones though…

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  17. How wonderful to have such a teacher, Dallas. My memories of Grammar school, are not as fond as yours. I did enjoy English Lit. though, but can’t remember much about my teachers. Miss Crute certainly sounds outstanding. 🙂

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  18. Preach it, Girl! Both of my parents are teachers and often have past students come up and share a story about how their lives were changed because of my mom or dad. Of course, I roll my eyes because they are my parents, after all! 🙂

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  19. Of course everyone adores great teachers – and I can definitely see why you guys adored her! My bestie is going through a credentialing program right now, and we were discussing last night, how one you learn what good teaching is, you realize just how teachers in your life were good and bad.

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  20. Pingback: The Smartest Kids in the World are created by the smartest (and bravest) education policy makers. | GlobalEd

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