On Jan. 9, students from across Howard County united at the Board of Education to share insights about the county’s education system from a student’s perspective with Superintendent Doctor Michael J. Martirano. The ambassadors represented each of the twelve public high schools, the Applications and Research Lab (ARL), and the Homewood Center school. The two pupils in attendance from Mt. Hebron were senior Zara Mahmood and myself, junior Jacob Bashura.
The student advisory meeting began with an introduction from Martirano as to why he had brought all of the students in, and then followed with a formal greeting to each guest, including a handshake and a pronunciation of his or her name to make sure he had it correct.
After the opening remarks, Martirano posed a question and then requested that everyone answer it, one by one. He wanted to know what, in a student’s eyes, made a quality teacher. When it was my turn to give a contribution, I shared my opinion on what I believed to be the necessary components of a teacher in order for a student in his or her class to have the potential to be successful.
“I believe that for a student to have the potential to be successful in a class, the teacher has to be interested in his or her profession, love working with kids, and also be able to put him or herself in our shoes. He or she needs to be able to understand that certain amounts of work are unreasonable, or the work is too difficult to complete, especially if we have athletic events or a lot of work from another class that we need to be focusing on that night.”
In response to these ideas of mine, Martirano discussed the successful, prestigious nature of the Howard County Public School System, but also agreed with my underlying message.
“This is being boastful, but we are the no. 1 school system in the state of Maryland, and I can give you a variety of indicators that we have a very high performance level from the student body, and a lot of over-achievers, and along with that goes with a lot of stress. We are one of the top school systems in America, and along with that, we are a model, but if we’re stressing out our student body, that’s a whole different set of issues.
Due to a lack of time, as the trip was only scheduled to allow one hour of discussion time, Martirano’s aid asked the participants of the discussion to try to limit their responses to a couple of words. With this in mind, Mahmood kept her ideas concise and got right to the point she was bringing to the table, which was that teachers need to do their best to create an enjoyable, interesting learning environment.
“Sticking to two words, I’ll say interactive and entusiastic.”
After everyone in the circle had responded, Martirano confessed his desire for more time with us to have the opportunity to gain more student-based knowledge, stating that he would do his best to replicate the meeting for a later date, except with a larger amount of time.
Just before Mahmood and I departed for the bus to head back to Mt. Hebron, I managed to catch Martirano and ask him how he thought the meeting went, as well as pose for a picture.
“I thought it went great, and I would love to have you all back here again sometime soon. This definitely wasn’t a sufficient amount of time for me to get as much information from you wonderful people as I had wanted to.”
Perhaps the most memorable statement made by Martirano from the meeting, though, which he rightfully repeated multiple times throughout the meeting, suggested the discussion was successful in at least educating him about the dynamics of a good teacher.
“In order to teach a child well, you need to know a child well.”