Across five different universities and professional schools and four degrees, I’ve had some pretty good–and some not so good–teachers. Besides the role of parents and a child’s home life, there is an apparent abundance of evidence–not to mention, common sense–which suggests that the classroom teacher is the most important ingredient in anyone’s educational experience.
Or as the late James A. Garfield–arguably America’s “most intellectually accomplished” President–put it: “Education is me on one end of the log and Mark Hopkins’ (Garfield’s beloved teacher) on the other end.”
In Chaucer’s “Prologue” to the The Canterbury Tales, the Cleric–symbol of the learned person in the Middle Ages–he is described this way: “Gladly would he learn and gladly teach.” I’ve done my share of both over the years, and from that perspective, the best teacher I ever had was when I was in the sixth grade. Even if today one might look upon the small town where and when that was and wonder how anyone might have done much teaching or learning there and then.
However, if Mrs. Sheffer was the best teacher I ever had, her husband–Mr. Sheffer, who taught me in the seventh grade–if he wasn’t the worst, he was among em’.
So what was the difference? Even in the eyes of a youngster . . .