Not long ago I was in a training class.
From the very start, the trainer was not nice to his trainees. He was condescending, made jokes that were belittling and would humiliate you if you asked a question.
To him, every question was a stupid one. But if you were brave enough to ask a question and tried to appropriately defend yourself after he humiliated you, your treatment got worse.
It was obvious that our body language, fear and lack of questioning spoke of our dissatisfaction with his teaching style, which was not conducive to learning.
How does someone like that become a teacher? Who observed his teaching? How did he slip through the cracks?
What's unfortunate about people like this man is his negative impact on people like you and me.
He reminds me of what the late child psychologist Dr. Haim Ginott once said.
"I've come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It's my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child's life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or de-humanized."
When I think back on effective teachers I've had, Mrs. Schulenburg, my fifth-grade teacher, stands out the most.
I'm not sure if it was because she wore a smile on her face or because she had a passion for reaching and teaching her students no matter what.
Or maybe, it was because she found the good that you did and emphasized it, especially when you didn't get the concept.
"You can get this. I know you can. Just like you did this," she might have said while pointing to a concept you aced.
Mrs. Schulenburg was positive in her tone, body language and voice.
Students don't forget a teacher like her. I haven't. Still today, I strive to be like Mrs. Schulenburg. Not like my trainer.
Good teachers are rare. When you find them there is synergy and creativity in their classroom. There is trust and respect. There is positivity. There is even love.
People want to ask questions because they know that no question is ever a stupid one.
"Children are like wet cement," said Dr. Haim. "Whatever falls on them makes an impression."
Thus, let your teaching be an instrument of inspiration, not a tool of torture.
Cynthia Kimball Humphreys is a professional speaker and trainer. She writes a column for weeklies' in southern Utah and is a southern Utah correspondent for Deseret News. She can be reached at [email protected]. Her column, "Every1Counts," appears on deseretnews.com bi-monthly.