On Wednesday, January 23rd, I had the fortunate experience of going to see Marva Collins speak at Western Michigan University. She was doing a special appearance designed for intern teachers.
Marva Collins is a well-known and influential teacher who got her start teaching in Chicago. She established the Westside Prep School in Chicago where she specialized in learning disabled children, problem children, and children with mild retardation. By the end of her first year there, she increased each of the students grades by five.
Marva Collins was honored by Barbara Walters with the title, "One of the Legendary Women of the World." Channel ABC did a documentary on her called "The Marva Collins Story." She was even offered the position of Secretary of Education by Ronald Reagan, but she declined to stay in the schools with her children.
What makes Mrs. Collins so extraordinary is that she completely ignores the labels that students come with and has the same high expectations for every student, no matter what their backgrounds are. She believes in teaching with discipline, compliments, and love instead of punishment, scolding, and anger.
Mrs. Collins advised the interns present to pretend, every day, that the whole world is watching you teach and that your life depends on your behavior and how you treat the students. She let us know that teaching should be a self-serving act. If something does not feel right to us, then it will not be right for the students.
Marva Collins is an example of an exemplary teacher. She was willing to give us ideas in how to deal with children, but her main message was that we each need to find our own style. What is comfortable for one person may not be comfortable for us. She said that the only way we will be successful for our children is to be comfortable with ourselves and who we are as individual teachers.
Marva Collins stopped for a picture with me
before beginning her lecture.