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For the Love of Teaching
And Other Reasons Teachers Do What They Do
Interview Portraits by Ira D. Shull

From “Connection”

There is a simple, uncluttered joy most people feel when they connect emotionally or spiritually with others. For the following teachers, personal connection helps to explain why they teach. Some of these teachers are part of school communities where they feel accepted; for others, connection happens on a smaller scale and outside of traditional classrooms. Connection means sharing parts of themselves with students, not only as teachers but as people. It is about building relationships over a period of time and sustaining them. For these teachers, personal connection is what makes them thrive.

Peter Walter

Peter Walter teaches reading at the Linden Hill School, a private school for dyslexic adolescent boys in Northfield, Massachusetts. Born with a learning disability himself, he overcame its problems through a course of hard work and discipline that included military school, athletics, and self-determination. He has lived and taught on and off at Linden Hill School for twenty-nine years.

For me, there are three different attitudes we can have in life. We can be deadly serious, wildly enthusiastic, or we can have a sense of humor. All I want to give my kids is a sense of humor, and at their level. Jokes are monumental for them. They have never been able to read. And what’s one of the first things kids read? A book of riddles. My kids never knew any riddles. Riddles were perplexing and agonizing for them. So I deal a lot with puns, with a playful use of language, because I want them to be able to laugh and enjoy language and ideas.
We had a boy who wouldn’t talk when he came here. I pointed at my foot and said, ‘What’s this?’ He said, ‘A shoe,’ and I said, ‘God bless you.’ He said, ‘May I call my mother?’ He got on the phone and said, ‘What do you have on your foot?’ and his mother said, ‘A shoe,’ and he said, ‘God bless you.’ He turned to me and he said, ‘You got any more?’ And he taught me. He taught me that the reason kids say ‘I don’t care’ is that they have nothing to share.
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