Why Teachers Matter Most:
I never knew it at the time, but upon entering my grade 7 homeroom, on the first day of school, the course of my life would change forever. It was in this grade that I was fortunate enough to be positively influenced by a brilliant and charismatic educator, his name, Mr. McKernan. Mr. McKernan had every quality you would want in a teacher. He held his students accountable, he had a great sense of humour, and had a superb knowledge of pedagogy and curriculum content. Most importantly, he was a relational educator. He was able to establish genuine relationships with all of his students. It was our mutual relationship that inspired me to become a teacher.
It was also in my grade 7 year that I discovered I had a learning disability. Middle school is such a challenging time for adolescents, as most students are always looking to fit in and never stand out from the crowd. I was certainly one of these students. But now, I was different from all of my peers. On Tuesdays and Thursdays afternoons, I had to leave my friends and my “main stream” classes to receive remedial support from my teacher Ms. Hazard (you can imagine the stigma associated with working with Ms. Hazard). During this period of my life I had no confidence in any of my abilities because I struggled mightily to fully comprehend my learning profile.
After Mr. McKernan read through my psychoeducational report, he sat down with me after school one day for a discussion. “Focus on your character, and this alone will lead you to success. Character is your destiny.” I still remember those exact words. From that point forward, my approach to all things focused on having an unwavering desire and work ethic. In addition, I focused on performance character traits, such as resilience, having a positive mindset, and being responsible. Over time this formula began to work and I started achieving academic success. I learned that character can be learned, practiced and cultivated with an open mindset.
My journey that I call life has included many challenges; however, it was always relational educators that led me out of these valleys. The impact that educators can have on young people is simply incredible and should never be overlooked. Having relational teachers that can connect with and engage students could be the most significant factor which leads to student success, especially at the primary and middle school grades (as it did for me). Educational psychologist Dr. Robert Brooks stated:
“possibly the most critical element within school is a student developing a close and nurturing relationship with at least one caring adult. Students need to feel that there is someone whom they know, to whom they can turn, and who will act as an advocate for them (2005).”
When students feel safe and comfortable in the classroom, they are more motivated to learn. One of our student mantras at Wentworth this year will be “character is destiny” and I would strongly encourage you to use this message and language with your children. When students focus on their character, they begin to invest in the very thing that matters most “the journey” (not the end). If students concentrate on their work ethic, embrace failure, have a positive mind frame, learn from their mistakes, and are receptive to feedback their results within their academic subjects or co-curricular activities will only improve. In the words of Senator John McCain:
“It is your character, and your character alone, that will make your life happy or unhappy. That is all that really passes for destiny. And you choose it. No one else can give it to you or deny it to you. No rival can steal it from you. And no friend can give it to you. Others can encourage you to make the right choices or discourage you. But you choose.”
Please help your child to "dive deeper" into what is possible. Ask them about who they are and most importantly who they can be in the future. Further, support Wentworth's message of the importance of character as it will “prepare your child to thrive in a meaningful life.”
John-Paul Cavalluzzo, Interim Head of Wentworth
Brooks, Robert. “EDUCATION AND CHARISMATIC ADULTS: To Tough a Student’s Heart and Mind. 2000. Accessed July 20, 2017. http://www.drrobertbrooks.com.
McCain, J. & Salter, M. CHARACTER IS DESTINY: True Stories Every Young Person Should Know and Every Adult Should Remember. RANDOM HOUSE PUB, 2005. Print.