What qualities did Miss Caroline have as a teacher in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Miss Caroline is a new and inexperienced teacher who tries to use new methods she learned in teacher school.

Miss Caroline is a very young, first-year teacher.  Scout describes her.

Miss Caroline was no more than twenty-one. She had bright auburn hair, pink cheeks, and wore crimson fingernail polish. She also wore high-heeled pumps and a red-and-white-striped dress. She looked and smelled like a peppermint drop. (ch 2)

Miss Caroline is a bit overwhelmed both with being a new teacher and with the social conventions of Maycomb.  She does not understand, for instance, that Cunninghams don’t borrow money and Ewells only come to school on the first day.  She does not realize that Scout’s father is a respected lawyer, and as he is educated she is naturally going to know how to read.

Miss Caroline seemed unaware that the ragged, denim-shirted and floursack-skirted first grade, most of whom had chopped cotton and fed hogs from the time they were able to walk, were immune to imaginative literature. (ch 2)

Thus, while Miss Caroline tries, she really does not know what she is doing.  She tries to institute what Jem calls the “Dewey Decimal System,” a progressive and experiential program.  However, all Scout really sees is a lot of construction paper wasted.

Miss Caroline is an important character because she allows the reader to get to know the local color in Maycomb better.  As a stranger, Miss Caroline has to be educated, and the reader gets educated too.  However, Miss Caroline does not possess the most important quality of a teacher: know your audience.  You need to know everything about your students to be effective.

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