I met Marley on a college campus, where she was taking her final semester of nursing coursework. She credited her high school history teacher, Mrs. McCall, for her academic success.
I had a failing grade in American history, even though it was my favorite class. I looked forward to it every day. My teacher, Mrs. McCall, was passionate about history and made it interesting. She made the people and places come alive. She used stories, discussions and projects to get everyone involved. She would often assign each of us a role as a historical figure and ask us to role play an event. My grades on classwork were great; so I am sure Mrs. McCall was confused by my test scores. By the midpoint in the semester, I had failed every test.
One day, Mrs. McCall asked me to stop and see her after school. She asked me how I prepared for the tests. I told her how I used the textbook, my notes and flashcards. I explained that I felt ready for every test, until it landed on my desk. Then I freaked out. I got anxious and couldn’t remember anything. All I could focus on was the clock ticking. Mrs. McCall talked with me about the items from our last test. As we talked, I remembered the names of people, places and even the dates. Mrs. McCall decided that I should take my tests orally with her after school.
In addition to asking me test questions orally, Mrs. McCall taught me relaxation techniques and memory tricks. My grade increased and so did my confidence. By the end of the year, I was able to pass written tests. I even got a B on my final exam. Now that I am a nursing student, I memorize so much information and frequently take tests. I still use the techniques Mrs. McCall taught me. I am grateful she took the time to understand my anxiety and put such effort into helping me.
Marley’s story made me consider the numerous and complex factors that influence a student’s performance. Teachers like Mrs. McCall carefully consider the whole student and commit to helping each student succeed. When did a teacher identify a unique need in you as a learner? Share in the comments below.
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