Why every successful teacher has a little Ms. Frizzle in them

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“Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!”

I enjoyed watching television growing up especially television shows that took me on an adventure. One of my favorite shows was The Magic School Bus. At the time, I did not realize how much I was learning; I most enjoyed the adventures the students would embark on with their eccentric, mysterious, red frizzle hair teacher appropriately named Ms. Frizzle. 

For those of you reading who have never seen/heard of The Magic School Bus, or may not remember, let me school you a bit on this teacher and her unique yet highly effective teaching style. Ms. Frizzle was a 4th grade Science teacher at Walkerville Elementary School. Ms. Frizzle was effective because she would use a variety of special magical devices to teach her class critical scientific concepts such as the water cycle, human body, solar system (my personal favorite), nocturnal animals, reptiles, and volcanoes. Her most notable magical device was her school bus, but it wasn’t just any school bus; it was a magic school bus. It was through this bus her students bordered that she would take them on educational adventures like none other. Isn’t that what teaching is all about? As a teacher, the goal is to take your students on a magical ride through their learning that pushes them and stretches their imagination. 

Successful teachers have a little Ms. Frizzle in them. It may not be the way the dress or wear her hair, but by the qualities they possess and their approach with students.

For me, Ms. Frizzle (also known as The Frizz) was the embodiment of what a successful teacher possesses. She was fearless and seemed never to be afraid regardless of the circumstance that she and her students would land. Ms. Frizzle faced difficult situations by laughing and smiling which would set her students at ease. They knew if their teacher was not afraid then there would be no reason for them to be scared either. Successful teachers can make the most difficult or challenging situations easy for their students and help students to tackle any of their problems head-on. 

“No matter what people tell you, words can change the world.”

Ms. Frizzle had a way with words and would drop knowledge occasionally on her students, readers, and viewers. She would speak to her students, individuals that read the books and those that watched the television show. The quote mentioned above is one of her most famous quotes because it spoke to what learning and education means. In the journey of learning, it is essential that learning is about taking chances. To learn, you take the opportunity of diving into the book or taking that difficult class. Mistakes happen and they are unavoidable, but often times mistakes are where you learn the most. Last, but not least, get messy because messy is always fun!

“It takes less energy to show love and be caring than to show hate and mistreat people.”

Ms. Frizzle’s classroom was full of love and care. Successful teachers have students that know their teacher loves and cares about them. Students learn better from teachers they know care and love them more than what they can offer in grades or test scores. It is that love and care that pushes students when school and/or life becomes difficult. When the school year gets long or the students are struggling with the concepts, the words from the teacher will help them keep going. Ms. Frizzle students loved being in her class because they knew she cared. In her class, that love did not just come from Ms. Frizzle, but it came from the students as well. The students were there for one another and helped each other overcome difficult situations. 

"Asking the right questions takes as much skill as giving the right answers."

Ms. Frizzle always challenged her students to find their answers. As teachers, we can easily give our students all the answers. Successful teachers challenge and push their students to discover and find the answers to their questions. Real learning happens when students investigate and determine the solutions. On the magic school bus field trips, the students would always ask Ms. Frizzle questions hoping she would answer because they knew she had the answers. Instead, Ms. Frizzle was the facilitator of learning. She would merely guide them and lead them to ask more questions to help uncover the answers they wanted. 

Think about the successful teachers that you had or know. Think about the qualities that made them successful. Now tell me they do not have a little Ms. Frizzle in them!

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David McGuire

Mr. McGuire is a middle school teacher in Indianapolis, Teach Plus Policy Fellow, and currently enrolled in a doctoral program at Indiana State University for Educational Leadership. Driven by the lack of having an African American male teacher in his classrooms growing up, David helped launched the Educate ME Foundation, which is geared towards increasing the number of African American male teachers in the classroom. A born and raised Hoosier, he is dedicated to improving educational outcomes for all students in Indianapolis. He describes his educational beliefs as a reformer grounded in the best practices of traditional public schools, where he was mentored by strong leaders. David graduated from Central State University with a degree in English and also holds an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University.