So, what qualities make a teacher effective?
As educators, this is a question we often ask ourselves, especially for inspiration. Let’s face it—at the end of the day, teaching is a very demanding, challenging profession, and we deserve opportunities to reflect on inspirational teachers and teaching stories that provide us with those rays of inspiration that get us through the next days and weeks.
For those of you who may already know me and/or have taken a class with me, you know that I begin every college class I teach with inspirational teacher stories that remind us of why we do what we do. Every semester, my students and I reflect on what qualities and personal attributes make teachers effective. As several of you already know, Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes is one of my all-time favorite children’s picture books, and I read it during the first class of every course I teach. It is the perfect “1st day of school” book because it is a unique celebration of childhood exuberance, the joys of learning, and the smooth disposition of Lilly’s teacher, Mr. Slinger.
And, most of all, she loved her teacher, Mr. Slinger.
Mr. Slinger was a sharp as a tack.
He wore artistic shirts.
He wore glasses on a chain around his neck.
And he wore a different colored tie for each day of the week.
I, too, love Mr. Slinger, for a host of reasons. First of all, I love that Henkes made the teacher a male, rather than the stereotypical female elementary school teacher. Mr. Slinger has a commanding, respectful, yet loving relationship with the children—a difficult balance to strike, indeed. He both disciplines and cares consistently. Lilly’s classroom is a dream classroom space, thanks to Mr. Slinger’s clever design. He uses innovative language, methods, and set-ups with his students. Mr. Slinger even has a kidney-shaped table at the back of the classroom with all sorts of fun writing utensils available, with a sign above reading “The Lightbulb Lab—Where Great Ideas Are Born.” Who wouldn’t want their child in Mr. Slinger’s classroom?!
One of Mr. Slinger’s most admirable traits is that he takes nothing personally. Excellent teachers, who truly understand the developmental qualities of their students, know better than to take anything the children do or say personally. There is no room for ego in teaching. Mr. Slinger handles tricky childhood behaviors with grace, and keeps the focus on learning, all while holding the students accountable for their actions, their growing independence, and their learning.
“Wow,” said the entire class. That was just about all they could say. “Wow.”
To all of you out there reading—
What do you love about Mr. Slinger?
What other picture book teachers do you find inspirational?
What makes those teachers you’ve identified effective?