I have to respond to Maureen Welch’s somewhat unfair assessment of Gregory Michie’s teaching ability (in her letter in the 9/15 issue). While I don’t know Mr. Michie personally, he and I are both students in UIC’s College of Education, and I had the pleasure of reading his book, Holler If You Hear Me, which chronicles his experiences teaching at a Back of the Yards school. The impression the book left on me was that Mr. Michie is an incredibly gifted and caring teacher who truly made a difference in his students’ lives.
I don’t dispute the importance preparation holds for teachers and their students. Nor am I questioning Ms. Welch’s teaching ability; her emphasis on the importance of preparation gives me the impression that she’s a conscientious, caring educator. Yet I also would guess that many a caring and effective teacher has, on a rare occasion, entered the classroom without a solid lesson plan for the period. To judge Mr. Michie’s worthiness and effectiveness as a teacher based on one sentence (and probably an isolated incident) from his article is shortsighted. I’d suggest that Ms. Welch read Mr. Michie’s book so she would see him in a different and probably more realistic light. He took an overwhelmingly sincere interest in his students’ lives and their backgrounds, going so far as to immerse himself in their culture (for one, by buying a house in the neighborhood), and learned all he could about their lives. He incorporated that knowledge into class activities and lessons that helped the students gain more confidence and pride in themselves and their neighborhood. And he spent a lot of time with them outside the classroom as well.
I think Ms. Welch’s reaction to that one statement blinded her to the rest of Mr. Michie’s article, which clearly portrays a teacher who has learned immeasurable lessons from his students about the importance of open-mindedness and open-heartedness. Those are two qualities that every teacher would do well to develop.
Kathleen T. Hayes