“Free the child’s potential, and you will transform him into the world.”
Yes, yes, yes! This is what I want, this is how I want to teach. I want to open my students’ eyes to the world around them, and prepare them to meet the world on equal ground. I want to help my students find their sense of curiosity, their desire to know the answers, and help them develop the tools they need to find those answers. I don’t just want to teach the curriculum; I want to teach empathy, taking chances, self-confidence. I want to teach to the whole child, not just to the student.
The best teachers reach their students on all levels. Their title is ‘teacher’, but their roles are so much deeper than that – coach, nurse, friend, parent, cheerleader, guide. I believe that in order to have the most positive impact on my students, I need to show them that I care for them and support them on all levels. During my senior internship this spring, I had to develop myself on these different levels, in order to connect with my students and be a better teacher. I had to learn how to break down the teacher-student wall a bit, and approach them as a friend when they were excited about something they did; as a cheerleader, when a struggling student just needed a boost to figure out a problem; and as a mom, when one of my students just needed a hug.
I also need to show my students that they can meet me on equal terms. That is, I will offer them the respect and fairness that I expect in return. I don’t believe that students need to have the right answer on the first try – it’s okay to get it wrong. It’s important to emphasize the effort over the final product, because that effort is what will sustain them if they don’t get something right the first time. As a teacher, I need to help my students realize that it’s okay to fail, and show them how to develop the confidence and skills to find the answers. Students need to develop critical thinking skills and perseverance, not just for school, but for life. I am not only creating good students – I am hopefully creating good people.
In creating good people, as well as good students, the tools I use to teach are important. The curriculum is not simply the textbooks that the school supplies – I will use these, certainly, but I am not limited to them. Getting students engaged and interested in their learning is key, and that means relating what I’m teaching to their lives, to the world they know. A pencil-and-paper worksheet is one way to teach or assess, but it’s important to offer more authentic assessments as well. I want to go beyond learning by rote, and into discovering their education. In Language Arts, can students read a story with two perspectives, then choose a side and justify it to me? In Science or Social Studies, students could create an alphabet book with topics from the unit or lesson, using the text features to show me their knowledge. In Math, can a student explain not just how they got the answer, but why it works?
I am a fledgling teacher, and just starting to try out my wings. I know that as I begin my teaching career, I will try out different methods and practices, keeping those that work for me and making them my own. I need to remember to keep an open mind, and a willingness to collaborate with – and learn from – my mentors and peers. At its best, teaching is a shared profession, where teachers are not afraid to offer up their ideas and practices for others to use. Our goals should all be the same – to teach and develop our students into confident, curious, determined learners. I realize that there are some aspects of teaching that can detract from this – evaluations, paperwork, bureaucracy, even parents or administrations at times. Any profession has its frustrations, but the rewards of teaching far outweigh these. The energy, the satisfaction, of walking into a classroom and being greeted by excited smiles are what make everything worth it. I want to do everything that I can to create great students, great learners, and magnificent people.