90 Summer 2015 • The Relational Homeschooler www.TheOldSchoolhouse.com
Teacher’s Pet. That’s a label that elicits, for many adults, un- pleasant memories of sing- song, snide remarks from
mocking classmates. But, if you will allow me, I’d like to turn that term on its
head, and consider the educational effect
on those who basked in the brief sunshine of a teacher’s favor.
For me, it was Mr. Hellman in my fifth
grade class. That year, two or three of
us experienced the best school year of
our lives, because for some reason, this
teacher thought we were each somewhat remarkable. Suddenly, things that
seemed impossible to learn became infinitely easier as Mr. Hellman explained
them, communicating all the while his
belief in our ability to learn. And, now,
half a century later, I can still recall his
name, how he taught us to play checkers
strategically (!), and our incredible field
trip to Williamsburg and Jamestown. No
other teacher remains this clearly etched
in my memory.
Did you ever have a teacher single
you out, making you feel special? If you
had that experience—and leaving aside
any emotional fallout from jealous students—let me ask you a question. What
was the year like for you when it came to
learning? What difference did it make to
have a teacher who believed in you, who
obviously enjoyed you as a student?
As I have asked that question around
the world, the overwhelming response
has been that being “teacher’s pet” for a
year made learning easy, made it possible
to try things that would have normally
felt too difficult, and made all the difference in the world to that student.
There is an experience, however, that
is quite different for students. Having a
teacher dislike you from the very beginning, who believes the worst of you for
whatever reason, is utterly debilitating.
I had that experience, too. My seventh
grade science teacher, Mr. Whoever-he-was, decided that I was a smart-aleck.
Admittedly, I had been unable to resist
making a little cartoon on my first science
test. And, from that moment, I was in his
black book. Nothing I did was right, as far
as he was concerned. And, honestly, all I
remember about that year was a terrible
class where I learned nothing (except to
refrain from humor on tests.)
When I have asked audiences the question, “What was it like to be the student
whom the teacher disliked on sight?” the
answers have been uniformly disheartening. For virtually every adult who
admitted having this experience, the response was, “It was pretty much impossible to learn . . .” and, “I didn’t even try,
because what was the point?
So, here’s the punch line: As a homeschool parent, you are the teacher of each
When they know you like them—enjoy them,
appreciate them, and want to be around them—
they are then free to thrive and flourish in learning.