As I try to enjoy my last week of summer (psych! Hurricane Irene ruined all my last minute beach plans, so I’ve mainly been sitting here getting a jump start on reading for school), I started thinking about teachers. I wish I could say there have been many literary teachers who have inspired me, but children’s lit is strangely lacking in this department. The great thing about teachers is they’re limited to school hours, so they can provide wisdom and advice, but they can’t follow the characters around talking about curfew and responsible driving. I wish more authors took advantage of this unique adult/child relationship, but for now, here are a few great teachers I’ve found in some of my favorite books:

1. Bill from The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I’m not sure how it happened, but Charlie happened upon the best English teacher anyone could ever hope for. Bill sees that Charlie is smart, but has a lot of growing to do, so he starts assigning Charlie extra reading assignments. He does it in a way that makes Charlie feel like his thoughts have worth, and because of it Charlie starts to think more critically about literature and life in general. I love that Bill gives Charlie A’s on his report cards home and on his transcript, but privately tells him he got a B, making Charlie accountable not to his parents or the school, but to himself, and letting him know that even if his work is good enough for an A, Bill knows that Charlie can and should do better. Bill also listens to Charlie’s problems, while still maintaining that teacher/student line. If only all teachers took more interest in their students, maybe more students would take interest in their subjects.

2. Mr. Freeman from Speak

Like Bill, Mr. Freeman is a great teacher because he pays attention to his students. He realizes that not everyone is an artist, so he uses his art class as a way to teach experimentation, exploration, and personalized creativity. He gives everyone room to grow in their own way, while still holding them responsible for saying something, anything. While his message is particularly important for Melinda, every high school student needs someone telling them to speak up. There are too many people in the world telling them to speak only when spoken to.

3. Dr. Hyde from Looking for Alaska

I love the Dr. Hyde, specifically because he doesn’t go out of his way to make any one student feel special. There’s a moment when Miles is caught daydreaming in his class, and Dr. Hyde kicks him out. Later, Dr. Hyde tells Miles that he knows he enjoys his class, so he should work to be present in every moment of his life, wherever he is, and leave the daydreaming out of it. It’s a great lesson, and he’s a very subtle character that has a lot of influence on the way Miles looks at life. Dr. Hyde  is masterful at keeping the line clear, while still using his experience and wisdom to better his students’ lives.

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