What is a teacher? How do you measure the effect they have on the countless numbers of children whose live’s that teacher touches? How can I look back on the career of my dearly departed friend, Arty Miller, and properly evaluate his role as a teacher in our community?
Our government and pencil pushing bureaucrats think they have the answer, and it looks like this:
According to the bureaucrats and policymakers who dictate education policy, we can effectively measure the worth of a teacher in a calculation that is more complex than Erwin Schrödinger’s differential equation which explains the quantum nature of matter and light (see HERE if you wish to get an idea). You can, apparently, boil the life’s work of an educator down to a single number. A good teacher, according to those who don’t teach, can be quantified. Tell that to my friend Arty…
Over the past 14 years I have been blessed with having the opportunity to be friends with a man whose dedication to my profession was beyond compare. From my first glimpse of him rolling his “wheelie bag” down the hallways of our middle school – until the last day I sat with him in his room last June, I saw an educator who made a real difference in the lives of all those who sat in his room 180+ days a year. Whether it be dressing up in traditional Chinese attire to teach about his experience in China and the “China Ship” (inside joke), or his daily, boisterous greeting of his students with “GOOD MORNING CLASS!!!” – and their equally enthusiastic reply “GOOD MORNING, MR. MILLER”, my friend always went above and beyond. Even after 14 years of teaching, Arty would confide in me that he still spent hours EVERY night, grading papers, writing lesson plans and putting together presentations for his classes. He could not grasp how I actually had nights where I did not have to do any school work. For 14 years he asked me for my secret to cutting down on my workload, and for 14 years I was too afraid to admit that I wished I had his level of commitment…
While at school, Arty was a teacher first and everything else came second. But what is a teacher? What makes a good teacher and why was my friend the very best one I have ever had the pleasure of knowing? Simple. It’s heart. His was unmatched and bigger than anyone else I have known in my 39 years. You can’t measure heart. There is no metric that can adequately define it or quantify it. My friend was all heart. That is why he was such a great teacher. Ask any student who had him and the answer is the same: “Mr. Miller was the best.”. No doubt. The best.
Someone once shared with me this “poem” about a good teacher:
a good teacher:
listens to you
has faith in you
has time for you
shares their love
takes time to explain
is a helper
tells you how you are doing
allows you to have your say
does not give up on you, ever
values your opinion
makes you feel clever, imaginative and worthwhile
stands up for you
tells the truth
My friend Arty Miller was all of these things and more. There is no equation that can measure that. Notice that poem does not mention data, or numbers? Why not? Simple: There is no test a child can take that can demonstrate the effect a great teacher like my friend has. My heart is breaking – and has been for some time now, that our profession is moving in a direction that values numbers above all else. Arty often shared his frustrations with me over this. He never spoke out. He never complained. He soldiered on and accepted every rating he received, and yes – many of them told a different story about his ‘effectiveness” than you would think… yet he kept doing the best he could. Arty confided in me on more than one occasion that he wasn’t sure he could keep going on teaching, not because of his students, not because of his workload, but because of a system that seemed to take more and more heart and soul out the profession he had poured ALL OF HIS into.
My friend Arty was the best teacher I have ever known, and every student who sat in his class can corroborate that. If I were not here to share that, and if you went by the rating system that he was judged under, he would just show up as another average educator. My friend Arty wasn’t average. He was the best. He is what every teacher should be. My friend was all heart and his teaching was testament to that. You don’t have to take my word for it though. All the evidence you need to see that truth is the sadness and devastation his loss has created in our community. I would share with you EVERY note, comment and post that parents, students and fellow teachers shared with me over the past two weeks, but I just don’t have the bandwidth to it.
In the wake of the loss of my only son, I started a movement to make the world a little kinder. We are well on our way to our goal. I now have an added mission, to advocate for all the Arthur Millers out there who never had the chance to say how they feel our profession is being usurped by profit driven, data hungry, heartless bureaucrats who are sucking the heart and soul out of the profession he dedicated his life to. I know how you measure a good teacher. You compare them to my friend, Arty. There is no equation that can do that. His life’s work was more than just a number. How do you measure heart? You don’t. You feel it. You see it. You experience it. My friend understood this. The reason he was the best is because he was all about that which is inherently immeasurable. I didn’t just lose a best friend… the world lost a great teacher. Arty didn’t break the mold for being a good teacher: He IS THE MOLD for being a good teacher. Don’t let the numbers fool you. You can’t measure heart…
I love you, my friend. Rest in piece. I will never be able to walk down into your classroom again to share a story or give you advice. The world many of us woke up into this morning is a diminished one. I vow to make sure we work towards making it a better one, in your name. Godspeed Arty… heaven’s gain is our loss.
If your life was touched by Arty, please share below in our comments. Let’s show “them” that my friend was more than a number…