THE TEACHER that had the most impact on my life? Hmm… I feel like I need to preface my answer to that question by saying I’ve had quite a few really good teachers in my life. Some of them were my teachers, some of them were my colleagues and some were my teacher training students.

There’s been some truly awful ones too, and the thing about teachers is we tend to remember them. They all have great impact our lives. For better for worse. Which is why I always used to tell my teacher training students to think of the learners as if they were all carrying an invisible backpack on their backs. As a teacher you get to put one single thing into that backpack. One thing that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. Consider the weight of that responsibility and choose your item wisely. 

For me, the one thing I wanted to put in the backpack was the realisation that learning is possible, and can be a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I’ve yet to find one single person who doesn’t like to learn and discover new things. But I’ve met far too many who either believed (because they had been told so) that they couldn’t learn, or who couldn’t learn right now for some reason. 

People who believe they can’t learn are wrong, and they need help to unlearn this limiting belief. They may have a learning disability. They may have a learner type that is rarely catered for in the standard classroom setting. Or they may have been the unfortunate victims of crap teachers. There are few experiences that can match the joy of seeing the light switch on in someone’s mind when they crack the code. It’s such a liberating experience for a trapped mind to be let out into a world of possibilities.

For people who can’t learn right now, it’s a matter of helping them understand that it’s not their fault, That there’s nothing wrong with them. And that they can always return to their studies later in life. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs explains this dilemma pretty accurately. If you don’t have your basic needs met, it’s damn near impossible to think of self-actualisation.

The two teachers I thought of as I read today’s prompt both understood that learning must be enjoyable (not every minute of it, mind you!) and learners need to understand what it means to be human. They need to see themselves as the complex beings they are, rather than results-driven, rote-learning robots.

Kalle Sjölin, my Year 7 – 9 Head Teacher, and Roger Thereus, my A-Level Swedish lang/lit teacher were first and foremost human mentors. They were parental figures who could encourage, inspire and mete out discipline if need be. Both of them made us laugh, they pushed our boundaries and made us reach higher than we ever thought possible. And they showed us that humans are multi-faceted beings. 

They were far from perfect and they understood not to demand perfection from us. Instead, they made us strive to understand ourselves and find our own limits and boundaries. And they allowed us to speak freely, to argue with them and to be kids and prank them. In return, they pranked us right back. They argued with us and cussed us out when we deserved it. And they spoke their minds without mincing their words. 

My guiding principle as a teacher, coach and parent: To be a friend and a mentor who can cut through your bullshit, tell you the truth and help you find the tools you need to keep working. I picked that up from Kalle and Roger. Two teachers who had great impact on my life.   

Over to you:

– Do you have a teacher who had a real impact (good or bad) on your life?

Let’s talk! Please, share the links to your posts using today’s prompt in the comments below.

See you tomorrow,

//E.  😘

© Evalena Styf, 2022

Writing prompt from #WordPress 365 Days of Writing Prompts: 8 January, Tell us about a teacher who had a real impact on your life, either for the better or the worse. How is your life different today because of them?

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