What Makes a Life-Changing Teacher

Kamala Harris is doing a nice thing on Twitter, asking people to share stories of teachers who changed their lives. Here’s one of several I can think of right away: Kenneth Clegg, the chemistry teacher at Warwick Academy in Bermuda. He made us all love to be in his class because he so clearly loved all of us.

My dad, David Critchley, who knew what he was talking about, would have said Mr. Clegg was an example of what really matters in good teachers — more even than how well they know their subject (although Mr. Clegg knew his very, very well). Quoting Charles Truax, Dad said three simple things make the difference: empathy, warmth, and genuineness.

The trouble is, those are hard to turn into checklist items in a teacher training curriculum. You don’t so much learn them as you’re given them, usually in childhood, by your parents or other mentors — or, if you’re not so lucky, through the hard work of clearing away all the junk that gets built up in their place.

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