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September 22, 2013

CUMMINS: Teachers are irrelevant and obsolete

INDIANAPOLIS — Good news for taxpayers: Chromebooks, etc. are replacing teachers. Students will no longer affix their eyes to a teacher imparting knowledge at an archaic chalkboard. Mega-data flashing on tiny magical screens is now at the heart and soul of education. Children love to interact with a teacher sitting at home in her pajamas checking on her students’ homework flashing across her cozy screen. Teachers are becoming irrelevant and obsolete fading away just as old soldiers do, but maybe not.

 My teachers taught me more than I thought they did. In third grade, Miss Thomas made me sit in my seat, pay attention and I fell in love with her. I don’t know why, but in high school, Mrs. Davis caused me to want to learn much more. There was something about her that inspired me to try making something of myself. 

Jesus was known as a pretty good teacher, and used parables to get the point across, but his followers picked out only the ones they liked, if any. History is a good teacher recording continuous wars and inhumanity, but we’ve never learned those lessons? Experience is also a good teacher, revealing that a hot stove burns the second time, too. We also learn from live human teachers who have more influence than they think they do. They have the power to inspire and change young lives. Rather awesome, don’t you think? Maybe you should consider teaching.

 A really good teacher is worth what? During my career, I interviewed and hired hundreds of teachers. I sat in hundreds of classrooms observing and evaluating them. It didn’t take long to determine the quality, or lack thereof, of instruction and learning in each classroom.

Teaching is a “humane” thing, bordering on the sacred realm. Some teachers are born, some made and some struggle. These are the qualities I looked for: Intelligence, authenticity, skill, commitment, compassion for people, particularly the young, mastery of the subject matter and 10 other things. I also attempted to discern a candidate’s depth of character, which reveals strength and integrity. Why don’t you apply?

A teacher also needs to possess the aptitude and skill for work in the areas of psychology, nursing, police work, lion taming, marching single file and mopping vomit. One might assume that all teachers would have and use good common sense. They don’t, and this is where the principal loses control — his own. You would also assume that all teachers like kids. They don’t. Most do, but others have fought the wars so long, they can’t tolerate the little brats, and count the days.

Teachers should love the parents who provided the raw material for the educational assembly line. Teachers should love those children without parents. A teacher can be about the only stable element in a lonely child’s life. Teachers seldom realize the impact they have on a young person, who could go either way. It takes a kind and encouraging word, a genuine interest, equally, in each young person contained in the room. Teachers can fool the central office, the parents and the public some or all the time, but they can’t fool the kids. They perceive the humaneness of their teachers rather quickly, which makes a huge difference. 

I used to ask students what they wanted from teachers. Overwhelmingly, they want “fairness.” I also asked students who their favorite teacher is and why. One thing about the young is that they are usually more honest than most adults are. Generally, their favorite teacher was not the one who lets them chew gum, but again the “fairest” one and, believe it or not, the ones that taught them the most. Jason told me, “Mr. Archer is my favorite because he knows what he’s doing.” That says it all.

So, you want to be a teacher? Join up. There’s no other profession like it. Doctors heal bodies, lawyers litigate and bankers loan. Teachers deal only with the body, heart, mind and soul of precious young human beings. They’re in your hands, and if they don’t get inside your heart, or at least a little bit of it, you probably won’t survive.

Before applying, be forewarned; you must learn bladder control. There will be no time to go to the bathroom, and you will get heartburn gobbling your lunch. Before signing on, gather 30 stinkers in a room for six hours and hold them there. You’ll laugh and you’ll cry until it’s taken every ounce of your energy.

Contact Terry Cummins at


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