An admirable essence
A student can emulate the memorable teacher and end up in a good place. This teacher
leads the student forward into graciousness by her example. She speaks kindly or is silent. The
memorable teacher is confidently slow to react when baited and asks clarifying questions when
a conflict is brewing. Her conduct is the same whether she is being observed or not, rewarded
or not, being treated well or not. She is intrinsically motivated and not dependent on the
affirmation of her students, their parents, her colleagues or her supervisors.
The school principal and the custodian are equals in the memorable teacher’s eyes. So is
the honor student and the habitually tardy or misbehaving student. He treats others the way he
wants to be treated without demanding his right to be respected, especially when he is in the
presence of a person who does not yet know how to be respectful. He is not surprised that he is
better at showing respect than his students are; he has been practicing longer than they have
A seat at the table (belonging)
The memorable teacher lets the student belong in ways that matter to the student. This
may be shown by calling the student by his or her preferred name, learning facts about the
student’s life or interests that are referred to later to build the relationship, or selecting the
student for a task, service, or honor that is relevant to the student. The exemplary teacher
inserts this experience of belonging into the life of each student placed in her care.
True trust is offered liberally by the memorable teacher to the deserving and the
undeserving. He knows that everyone will fall into both categories if he knows them long
enough. The trust he offers isn’t blind, it is full of faith that eventually the person it is offered to
will get it right. He is not foolish with his safety and resources, and he knows the value of
displayed trust far outweighs losses he will experience when a soul that was trusted fails to
deliver. He wisely gauges how much trust a soul is prepared to receive and offers that or a
touch more. He can speak clearly in advance of how he’ll proceed if the trust is misplaced. He is
not dismayed when others fail and is swiftly ready to let them try again as a father would help a
child learning to ride a bike without training wheels.
Humans fail, and students are human. The memorable teacher is a master of
redemption. She brings grace to students who have erred naively and mercy to those who
knowingly misbehaved. She is in tune with how some souls are cross-wired and will sabotage
their own success. She refuses to shame people and instead guides them through necessary
guilt into improved behaviors. She has failed, does fail and will fail again. The failures have
seasoned her. She knows the path through the dark night of the soul and can safely guide her
young charges through theirs.
Experiences that expand the student’s world view
Everyone gets a unique window on life from their family of origin and surrounding
community. The memorable teacher shares snapshots of his view and reveals there are many
divergent paths students will encounter in the coming years. He offers the antidote to wealth
and poverty, which is to discover that aspect the student has yet to experience. The memorable
teacher wisely adds experiences to the student’s portfolio that will enhance the particular
students in his care. He lets them taste new things and demystifies the unfamiliar so the
students will be more likely to return to the rarefied experiences in the future with confidence.
Challenges that build a student’s self-esteem
The memorable teacher knows the chief ingredient to her students’ resiliency is their
self-esteem. She knows that self-esteem only occurs when a person does something he or she
deems worthy, and that it is often heightened when the person was unsure that it could be
accomplished by his or her self. She does not confuse her offer of praise as a self-esteem
builder, which it can never be. She gives her students goals worth pursuing and explains the
benefit that will grow within them when the goal is reached. She is patient as the goal is
repeatedly missed, which is inevitable when tackling work worth doing, and she is celebratory
when the victory is attained.
Clear sense of the goal and steps to get there
The memorable teacher is the one who lights the student’s path. He is the life tutor
explaining the course to the runner before the race. This is done in regard to class assignments
as well as social goals and rites of passage to come. He does this through advance
contemplation of what his students face uniquely and collectively. He is prepared to speak
extemporaneously, and humbly, about life goals since he is a student of life who is simply a
little further along the path than the students who follow him. He shares his breadcrumbs so
they may mark their own path well.
The memorable teacher speaks candidly with her students of what went well and what
would be best to change. This is ongoing as needed, which is often. She lets her praise flow
when it is deserved and offers her confident encouragement until that praise is earned. She
knows these are two unique forms of communication and doesn’t confuse the two. She wisely
asks students if they welcome feedback, and generally reserves her input for those ready to
receive it, which makes it even more palatable to the young people in her care. She knows what
you seek you will find, so she seeks the good in everyone and lets her critique identify specific
things that are getting in the way of the results the student is aiming toward. She wisely
estimates what a soul can bear to hear and only wants to go that far.
The community and environment created by the memorable teacher is designed for the
emotional, social, and physical safety required for taking the risks that true learning requires.
He is aware of the psychological needs of humans in general, and his students in particular, and
designs the space and his lessons to foster their opportunity to take their next steps forward.
He inserts the language of safety into his students’ vocabulary and models its use in his
conversations with them. He tests for emotional readiness before proceeding. He deals as
privately as possible with misdeeds and errors. He responds to threats and deeds similarly in
order to teach students not to bully or threaten. However, he does not overreact when a growl
is offered instead of a bite. Creativity and learning are mysterious and require the soul to leave
its comfortable seat in the known. He makes the path for this process as smooth as possible.
Memorable teachers are heroic and worthy of emulation. They ask more of themselves
than they do of others, though their standards are high for those who follow them. They are
humble because they regularly examine themselves and the race they’ve run thus far,
remembering where they tripped, and how, and why, in the hope of not repeating it. You can
follow a memorable teacher safely and end up in your unique and rightful place of honor. This,
after all, is the memorable teacher’s goal.