I have learned so much in such a short time about being a teacher. And, I have infinitely more to learn.
I’ve been humbled by the magnitude of the responsibility of this profession. There is first and foremost the responsibility to the students and their learning, as well as to their dignity, self-esteem, hearts, minds, and souls. I’ve already seen and experienced how a word, a look, or lack of acknowledgement or appreciation can affect a student and his or her feelings. I thought I had a fairly clear idea of what it meant to be a teacher, even an excellent teacher, because I’ve had excellent teachers. Becoming an excellent teacher is such a profound journey and necessitates unending intellectual, academic, personal, and professional growth as well as a willingness to always be open to those challenges.
Second, as a teacher, there is the demand for tremendous balance. I think the best teachers need to find a balance in the classroom with discipline, fun, laughing, high standards and expectations, quality and meaningful instruction, learning when to address an issue with a student, and when to let it go. And, all of this changes everyday, all day. Being able to adapt is essential. I’ve learned it will take years of commitment to this profession to learn how to do it well.
It’s vital that teachers see their students and I define ‘see’ in many ways and on many levels. First, students want to be called by their correct name, pronounced correctly. This may seem obvious and elementary but it’s very important to each and every student. I witnessed this countless times in several classrooms. Students truly seemed crestfallen when they were addressed by the wrong name or wrong pronunciation of their name. Every teacher is challenged with learning the names of every student. Many of the classes I was in had 37-40 students, so it’s difficult to learn every student’s name. However, I believe students feel more valued if they feel their name is important to the teacher.
Students want to know you care about their lives outside your classroom. They want you to know that they have lives outside the class and very often, they want to share those lives with the teacher. Students become more enthusiastic and happier when they are known and seen for who they are – as individuals with unique gifts to offer. An excellent teacher puts kids first and lets them know they are supremely respected and cared for in his or her classroom.
I don’t know of any time in our human history or culture when it was more challenging or exciting to enter the profession of teaching. In my life, I have had big dreams about my art (photography, writing, etc.) and where I might go with it creatively and professionally. Now, my biggest dream is to see if I can help students – as many as possible – reach their dreams.