Let’s protect our greatest assets; teachers are the lifeblood of Lane



Penny Scott

Who among us does not have at least one teacher from our past who we still remember because they “saw us” and cared? I’ve only got one. She was my third grade teacher, but she had such an impact on me,I still remember her with fondness and gratitude.

At Lane Community College I’ve had several teachers who have impacted me so strongly and in such positive ways, I feel compelled to write about them.

When students are inspired by a teacher, something inside them is ignited. Many a student at Lane are familiar with this experience, and I hear them commenting about it practically every day.

During an interview last year with Jeanne Harcleroad, a nursing teacher who has been at Lane for forty years, I asked her why Lane attracts such high caliber teachers. She believes that the reasons are twofold: Eugene offers a great lifestyle and so they are attracted to the area. The other, she said, is that the college’s presidents during her tenure have allowed teachers to teach classes in their own ways.

That’s the key right there, in my view; Lane teachers aren’t required to teach in straightjackets. They are expected to achieve results according to educational standards. However, having flexibility in how they achieve those results means that they can engage students emotionally and meet their needs in creative ways.

When classes are taught according to rigid formulas, on the other hand, they are usually dull and boring, which inevitably has a negative impact on learning.

I doubt whether the evaluators at the upcoming accreditation three day visit will be measuring our teachers according to their passion and ability to reach students. According to what the college administration has shared with us, we are a shoe-in to maintain our accreditation status. So, in the short term, it doesn’t matter.

However, over the long term, I think that Lane would be well advised to focus its energy on the best of its teachers and bring their talents and passion into the spotlight. This would be a good focus for Lane’s future marketing campaigns. Testimonials praising teachers from previous and current students are possibly the best marketing we coud ask for.

Education as we know it could change in the not too distant future. Technology, which offers online courses, takes face-to-face teacher/student interaction out of the equation. This could mean that colleges such as ours may come under threat. The trend is already underway with more and more classes being offered online because they are more cost effective.

It would be a tragedy if students lost personal connection with teachers. But, if we devise a system for harnessing what the best teachers have to offer and create a program for developing other teachers along the same lines, we can hold our ground.

Added to that, the education system at the macro level with its strong left-brain bias misses what’s at the heart of true learning. Right-brain learning includes the all-important emotional connection and offers a multitude of creative ways to convey information and teach. Online classes appear to be inherently limited in this regard.

Technology and government mandated education curricula are powerful forces to be reckoned with. They each have their merits and drawbacks. The United States, unfortunately, is not exactly standing head and shoulders above other countries when it comes to performance in education. Clearly something needs to be done.

I believe that we must protect and promote what’s important, namely our dedicated teachers who have the ability to reach students. They make such a valuable difference in students’ lives, it would be a crime to allow the wave of technological change to marginalize them, or allow the somewhat inflexible curricula mandated by the Department of Educationto tie the hands of the college and the teachersits teachers.

The original meaning of the word education derives from two Latin words. The first, “educare,” means to train, to mould and draw out what is already there. The second, “educatum,” describes the act or process of teaching. If we aren’t careful, this important element of drawing out a student’s innate gifts will be lost, and they’ll just be vessels for information poured into them and then be just expected to regurgitate it for exams.

In Ancient Rome, genius was recognized as the attendant spirit present within each of us from birth. Today, the original meaning has beenis lost and the word describes only the most gifted among us – those with exceptional intellect. This spirit is inside each of us; I just know it! The only way it can be drawn out in students is through personal interaction with teachers.

Twentieth century futurist, scientist, inventor and writer Buckminster Fuller was a strong proponent of the idea that we are all born geniuses. Greek philosopher Socrates, credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, believed that love is necessary for the true purpose of education to be realized. It’s the combination of both philosophies that needs to shape the future of education.

We’ve got something really good going at Lane. Let’s keep it, nurture it and learn how to replicate it. Teachers are the lifeblood of the college. What would we be without them?