Very early this morning when I probably should have been sleeping but couldn’t, I decided to read one of Jonathan So‘s recent blog posts. Jonathan is an amazing Grade 2 teacher in the Peel Board, and somebody that I’m lucky to learn from online — and even occasionally — in person. In this post, Jonathan tells about how he got into teaching, but he also asks some great questions, including, “What does teaching mean to you?” This is the question that got me thinking.
In some ways, the answer to this question is easy. Teaching for me means making a difference for kids.
- It means helping all students succeed.
- It means allowing them to pursue their passions, and supporting them along the way.
- It means giving students ownership over their learning.
- It means helping students wants to learn.
- It means giving students a reason to want to come to school each day, and having them leave just excited as when they arrived.
Teaching is everything to me! Yes, I have a personal life. I have family. I have friends. I have my own interests outside of the classroom, and I pursue them. But, when I drive home from school and blast the radio in the car, I also think about my students. I think about our day.
- What worked?
- What didn’t?
- What can I do better tomorrow? How will this make a difference?
My students are in my head at dinnertime. They’re often what wakes me up in the middle of the night (besides my barking dogs 🙂 ). They’re the ones that I think about as I read the paper at breakfast time, and talk through in my head my mini-lesson for Writer’s Workshop. They’re “there with me,” as I drive to school, and prepare for a new day. How can I make this day a success?
Because my 17 students are so very much the reason I teach, they’re also the reason that I constantly question myself.
- They’re the reason that I reconsider my practices.
- They’re the reason that I make some very uncomfortable choices (as I believe that these choices will make a difference for them).
- They’re the reason that any low score (from Dibels to DRA) and any misunderstood concept, makes me wonder if I could be doing something better. Something different. Something more likely to help them succeed.
I know that I’m a good teacher. I know that what I do in the classroom matters. But I also know that nobody’s perfect, and when we improve, our students benefit. So this also means that to make a difference for kids, I need to remember that “good” can always be “better.” I need to be open to new ideas. I need to work with teams: both online and in-person. I need to plan, act, assess, reflect, and try again. I need to make each day matter for students because the students matter: they’re what teaching means to me! What does teaching mean to you?
Well said Aviva… Teaching means all of these things to me as well… These also all apply at the post-secondary level 🙂
Thanks for the comment, Michelle! A wonderful point. It’s interesting to hear that regardless of level, there are still a lot of commonalities. I can’t help but wonder what else might be the same.
To me, teaching is something life long. It means service to others. Teaching is in abundance and something I look to receive and plan to give. Teaching is about supporting our very dear children, their caregivers and the team of adults who represent ‘the teachers’…all school staff have the responsibility to get involved in teaching the children in our schools. Caretakers, cafeteria cooks, office administrators,… “To teach is to touch a life forever!”…teaching to me must be growth minded and life giving. What worries me the most is how easily, opposite teaching can be for some… ‘ Aviva, ‘you’ve shared it’ in a way that is life giving. Take a look at this research. http://linkis.com/www.youtube.com/FJT1k
I continually think about this. Teaching means careful, effective word choice when instructing, communicating, conferencing, assessing and encouraging. Teaching is a gift, a privilege and it should always be ‘about the students and for the student’…. Thank you for your thoughts!
Thank you, Cheri, for your reply and the link. I’m definitely going to check it out. I love how your definition of “teaching” also includes the variety of “teachers”: all those people that make a difference for kids. I’d also love to add parents and “other caring adults” to this list. Students benefit from all of these people in and outside of the school that work to support and encourage them, as well as cause them to think.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the growth mindset recently. I think that sometimes, as teachers, we can start to look at the “good” in our programs and forget about the need to improve. We need those people that are going to question us (in good ways) to move us forward. This is why I love blogging and tweeting. I can get this questioning in both places, and ultimately, my students benefit.
I know that I can’t shoulder every problem in the classroom. There may always be those students that don’t make benchmark. There may always be those variety of behavioural issues. But here’s the truth: in all of these cases, I have that little voice in my head that says, “Did I do enough? Could I have done something differently? Is this my fault? What else do these students need?” And listening to this voice, considering these questions, and making changes, I think gets me one step closer to meeting the needs of ALL students. Our kids deserve us not to give up on them! I’d be curious to know what others think about this, and how they respond to the “voices in their head.”
Thanks for the great discussion!
Teaching completes me. When I meet my students, share knowledge and discover new ways to engage them in my class, drives me do better every day. There are some days when I feel would I have been a better professionally accomplished person if I had been in my first profession as an engineer? I could have. But there is no looking back now, only forward and make most of where I am today,
Thanks Sandhya! I love your positive attitude and genuine love for the profession. Teaching is certainly a special job, and one I think that we’re very lucky to do!
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