A few years ago a student informed me that while she had planned on becoming a teacher and thought she would be a good one many were encouraging her to find a different path. When I responded in a surprised manner, she became curious. Why was I so surprised by this.
First, let’s just say, she will be an awesome teacher. She was the kid who could explain concepts to others in just the right way. She wasn’t too forceful yet did her explaining in an articulate and purposeful manner. She had the right balance of kindness and firmness. Kids didn’t screw around when working with her yet they weren’t so serious that the complete joy was lost. She possessed just the right characteristics, in my opinion, to be a teacher.
I communicated with her how her attributes would make her an amazing teacher. She smiled and cited how she loved helping other students. I then got into why she wanted to go into teaching.
MANY options-she was the first student where I shared the work I did outside the classroom. I talked with her about how I had worked on a curriculum project which had helped me see what was happening in classrooms outside of mine. That project opened my eyes to the importance of teachers working together to develop the best possible activities for students. She then noticed that the four books on my desk were activities that the students frequently did and that I had actually written.
We discussed how sharing what is happening outside the classroom actually helped me become a better teacher. I began to continually think about how what I was doing was helping students. Initially I did a ton of curriculum type of work. That helped me build the tools and methods I had to teach as well as a network to connect with when I had questions.
At the particular time of our discussion I had begun to do more in the way of policy. Talking with political representatives ranging from the mayor to local legislators, to federal representatives. We discussed the importance of classroom teachers sharing what is actually happening in the classroom so that decision makers can make the best decisions based on what is actually happening.
I remember her responding hmmm…. She then asked, isn’t it stressful? Everyone seems stressed. I asked her when she felt stressed last. Prior to a math test she didn’t have time to study for. We dove into what caused the stress. Lack of adequate preparation because of the fact that she was busy with other items. So-if she had shifted her time differently would she have been so stressed? She laughed.
We talked about the challenges with balancing time as a teacher. There are so many things one needs to do. We need to prioritize. We need to minimize white space. Less busy work more purposeful work, because it doesn’t seem hard and can even be joyful. Nothing is more awesome than writing letters of recommendations for great students. Nothing is better than celebrating success of learning something that was once challenging. Teaching is a life changing experience.
As we finished our conversation that day I noticed twenty other faces smiling and nodding. For some this had been the first honest account of why someone should teach. As educators we often focus on the bad. If we shift our focus allowing ourselves permission to acknowledge the awesome we may inspire a new generation of educators.
The young lady who initiated this conversation is now in the last semester of her masters degree-in education. She is pleased with her career path, excited each day to work with students, and has already begun to make a difference in the lives of our youth. She currently has a job following graduation where she will #teachstrong. I’m not sure who is more excited-her or I!