The Teacher That Changed My Son’s Life

What Makes a Great Teacher: The Teacher that saved my son's education


I’m not sure if you know this, but I’ve got three children. Well, really almost-adults. One just finished her second year of university, one is graduating from high school, and the third has just finished his first year of high school.


You can imagine that we’ve burned through a lot of teachers throughout our time in the public educational system. And there’s been some terrible teachers, some unkind ones, some good ones, and luckily (and most memorably) some spectacular ones.


The most wonderful teachers that my children had were the ones who not only cared about the children, but that let them know that they did. Whether it was kind words, going above and beyond to create fantastic and engaging programming, or even keeping a child with them two years in a row.


The last happened to us twice, and what an ego boost it was for my boys to know that their teacher had brought him with. My youngest has ADHD and really struggled in primary school. With large class sizes and teachers not trained in strategies for dealing with kids with special needs, he was either in trouble, left out, or plain demotivated. He seemed to connect with male teachers (I guess because they didn’t mind his energy), so if there was one available, I made a case for my request.


In grade 7 he was placed with a teacher who really was the tipping point for him. This teacher actually appreciated his intelligence, valued his contribution, and worked around his silly moments (that’s what we call them, for want of a better word).  In our Parent-Teacher interview, for the first time, I had a teacher actually say, I love having J in my class. He’s a huge asset, and if I could, I would take him to grade 8 with me.


And you know what? He did. Which set my son up for an amazing last year of primary school. For the first time ever (even though he’s gifted), he made honour roll and he received an academic award as well.


This was the true impact of a teacher who cared.


On the other hand, sadly, we had teachers who didn’t know how to interpret and implement my son’s Independent Educational Plan (IEP), others who made him feel sad or inadequate, or even used sarcastic comments that he didn’t find funny. One played obvious favourites, and the worst was a principal who always assumed it was his fault, no matter what the circumstances were.


Happily, the good outweighed the bad, and my kids made it through the system with minimal need for intervention from me, and lots of interesting character-building experiences.


Teaching is not like any other job. Teachers must have four years of post secondary education and must be certified and licensed by The Ontario College of Teachers before they can teach in Ontario’s publicly funded school system.


We have to remember that some teachers are going to be extremely competent and some not so much – just like doctors, lawyers, retail clerks, and garbage men a parent. It’s frustrating when your child has a teacher that doesn’t seem to care, can’t keep up with the work, or worst of all, is not nice to the children.  But you do have recourse.


If you’d like to know more about your teacher’s qualification or education you can view the College’s  public registry for Ontario Certified Teachers (OCT’s).


If you want to know more about the professional standards teachers hold themselves to, visit this page.


If you have a complaint to make about a teacher (legitimate complaint, this is someone’s career, after all) you can visit the complaints and discipline area on the College website.


And lastly, if you want to be kept abreast of the education information in Ontario, sign up to The Standard, the College’s quarterly newsletter.


Did your child have a teacher that made an impact? I’d love to hear about it.


Note: As per my disclosure page, this post was sponsored by the Ontario College of Teachers. All children, experiences, opinions and thoughts are my own (obviously). 

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