the westminster news
Published by the students of Westminster School
By Tarapi Pyo ’24
Schools are a place for students to learn, gaining wisdom from the teachers they hail as their role models. From an early age, children are plunged into school. A young child is first exposed to their over-the-top bubbly first-grade art teacher, then their tyrannical fifth-grade math teacher and finally their boring freshman-year English teacher. So, inevitably, teachers are crucial in the development of students navigating their social lives, steering their academic life, and forming their beliefs and values. Depending on their grade levels, different teachers have different approaches in their classrooms and varying degrees of willingness to get involved with students.
Starting off the school system, a time when children have not yet realized that they are committed to these institutions for the next 10+ years is primary school. Students enter their school’s doorways to be greeted by their primary school teachers who have big, bright smiles, seemingly maintaining them 24/7. Teachers at these grade levels engage their young students in the only way they know how: by being super peppy. These students cannot fathom the idea that their teachers are not for their personal entertainment and were, in fact, required to play out songs and dances as part of their job. These teachers interact on a daily basis with children that ask uncomfortably personal questions and who are always prodding at boundaries. But especially crucial in these formative years, these special, wonderfully patient teachers teach children the basic principles of what is right and what is wrong.
Then a student heads to middle school, graduating the title of a little kid but now having to navigate life with snotty eighth graders. At these vastly diverse grade levels, teachers have to be firm and stern if they want any semblance of control in their classroom. Middle-schoolers easily prey on vulnerable teachers. From the moment a teacher establishes the mood of the classroom, middle schoolers can immediately tell what they can and can’t do in the face of a stern or kind teacher. When teachers attempt to embrace both qualities, they then have the difficult job of drawing a delicate line between the two extremes of being super strict or super weak. So, when teachers do find this excellent middle ground, classrooms flourish with intellectual learning as well as joyous atmospheres. Teachers’ decisions make monumental differences in their students’ lives who have to navigate their middle school terrain socially and academically. The social part is the most difficult for students because this is their first introduction to what growing up entails: cliques and gossip. Obviously, this is not what truly matters, but from the lens of a middle schooler, it is their sole reason for being; they crave any new gossip in circulation. Passing from the word-of-mouth of one student to another, gossip travels throughout the whole school and drama naturally arises. The unintended negative effects for those involved become the teachers’ job, which necessitates them being in the know in order to minimize the damages of various degrees of conflicts.
Then high school rolls around. An important question is brought up: How much should teachers engage with students outside of the subjects that they teach? There is not one teacher that is better than another. The teacher that decides to be engaged and truly cares for their students is as equally valid as one that does what their job requires and clocks out at the end of the day. These opposite levels of engagement, in the end, only become a matter of who is going to influence and teach students more. In this sense, teachers who engage with students outside of the classroom and are willing to go the extra step to help students are the ones who are going to have the most significant impact on students. In relation, the slowly maturing students actually do need teachers who try and genuinely care for them. They may find guidance in one teacher, a few teachers or none at all. Their primary school and middle school teachers are the ones who shaped their developmental years. Their transition into adulthood, in their most turbulent years of puberty, is in the hands of their high school teacher. From high school, students have to decide if they want to go to college or not. Their experiences from high school influences their decisions to pursue further education based on positive or negative interactions with teachers. Ultimately, teachers shape the young minds of these future leaders, directly impacting our future generations’ success. Teachers truly deserve of more than they are given credit for, at least the ones who cares.