The Teacher Tip

Don Graves Monday: Miss Fitch

July 17, 2017

From Teaching Day By Day: 180 Stories to Help You Along The Way

by Donald H. Graves

Miss Fitch used flies to cast for rainbow trout, knew her birds and anything else in the flora-and-fauna world. She was my high school biology teacher. I knew she was a good teacher, and everyone else did too. As seniors we dedicated our high school yearbook to her, even though we had taken biology in our sophomore year.As a teacher myself for the past fifty years or so, I’ve tried to figure out what she did that made her so special.

She wanted us all to fall in love with biology. That meant she had to know both her students and the subject.Within each student lay the key that would release his or her love of biology. But maybe it was the other way around. Maybe we loved Miss Fitch, and we deliberately found a way to tell her personal things (I wanted to hybridize gladiolus, for example) that connected us to biology.

I remember as if it were yesterday the lesson she taught on birds in our area. I can still see her pointing to the chart and identifying the scarlet tanager, the cardinal, and rose-breasted grosbeak. The minute I got home from school that day I headed out to the brush behind our home to spot birds. I even identified several from the chart. I’ve been identifying birds ever since.

Good teachers set conditions that help students fall in love with their subjects.


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