Rebel Teachers & Why We Should Love Them

I learn a lot from conversations with people that are older than I am. My “old soul” appreciates the wisdom and more than anything learning from generations before mine makes me feel like I am doing my part to learn from our collective past.

One thing that is constantly shocking to me is how many folks over the age of 65 share their stories of “not learning” in school. I wish I could record these conversations because it’s insane that so many successful, educated people that are now retired have little to no memory of being taught how they learned. On the plus side every single elder that I visit with about their schooling is sure to point out the teacher that made a difference.

The kindergarten teacher who taught a young girl how to make friends (when she had moved every year following her father’s military career).

The junior high teacher who took her classes out to lunch at a restaurant one day a year to practice manners and understand how to politely ‘eat out.’

The third grade teacher who scrapped the curriculum and let her kids learn all the math and reading she could hope for by having them plan a campout at school.

The second grade teacher who helped the little boy who never saw indoor plumbing understand the world of indoor bathrooms.

The sixth grade teacher who saw an opportunity and took it when one of her student’s shared that her own grandmother was a holocaust survivor.

The junior high science teacher who kept all of the 8th grade boys after school to have some hard conversations about dating and respect when a fellow student found herself pregnant.

The high school drama teacher who rose up and created a safe place for discussions about what was happening in Vietnam.

The high school marketing teacher who raised hell when he realized the school district purchased a merchandising textbook on accident; subsequently raising funds to buy the correct books for his students.

The college professor that realized that a young man could code a computer (that at the time was so large it filled a room) to do statistical calculations in seconds versus hours; and chose not to hold him accountable for hand written calculations like his peers.


These teachers were rebels and they have been gracing the halls of our schools for more than seventy years. These teachers are the ones that are remembered and celebrated. These teachers were the role models for all of their students that went on to teach. They didn’t try to purposefully rebel but when they made decisions based on the best interests of kids (leading naturally to a bit of rebellion) they met their responsibilities head on; often exceeding expectations for engagement and authentic learning experiences.

So today when I look at the education my own children are set to receive, I am hopeful that there are still these rebels among us that will buck the system and work for kids first. These rebels that will acknowledge wholeheartedly that skills learned through authentic, meaningful experiences for kids are far more important than discrete skills and completion of work that really means nothing.

I am so very hopeful that these rebels are still wandering the halls of our schools.

I am so very hopeful that behind every teacher that is scared to go against the grain there is one equally prepared to be creative, empower his or her students, and push back on a system that has for too long stifled our kids.

I appreciate the rebels and so should you. They after all, are the teachers we remember. They are after all the teachers putting kids at the center, empowering each student to engage and explore and find purpose in the mastery of every skill. They are the ones that excel in more than growth scores and academic outcomes.

The rebels deserve our love and appreciation, because in forty years they are the ones that will be remembered for making it matter; making school matter for all kids.

Go get ‘em rebels, your predecessors are cheering you on.