I embrace the joy of education conferences and all the excitement of learning new things and meeting swell new people. Yet every time I hear a master teacher speak or sit in another presentation by a truly dynamic educator, I start questioning myself. I know other teachers do but they don’t like to talk about it. They want to learn the newest in Problem Based Learning and make their classroom a wonderland of visible thinking integrated with the best uses of technology. How do these people inspire such wondrous learning and where do they find the time within everything else? Can I ever be anything like that or will I just be who I am?
I don’t know if I will ever be able to qualify myself as a master teacher and I don’t always integrate new methods with my own for the most successful class but I do know that I am a very good teacher. Why? It is not test scores and all that painful stuff. I know for the same reason you know and the same reason we all came to teaching. My students are always present for class and view it as something they want to be part of. My only secret is that I am myself and I care about those students. Class should be a time to learn and I insist that we do learn but it does not always have to be about quadratics or rational functions. The world is beyond our wildest dreams of understanding and kids are desperate to know as much as they can about all parts of it. If you find a time in class where it they need to focus on what it is to be a good friend or how to draw a straight line or appreciate their history or how to tie a bowline, then that is right and good thing to do. We, as teachers, are there to guide young people into being the best that they can be. None of us will be successful with all of our students but we all will resonate with some of them. Identify the part of yourself, that best part, that commands the most attention. The best part…therein lies another key.
I did steel work for many years before teaching. I was dirty and cussed like a sailor. As soon as I knew that I would be in the classroom I changed my language and worked on being a decent role model for students. Teaching has inspired me to be a better person because I can then be a better model for my students. I could more effectively guide them through the mean and awful parts of ourselves. Each of us has walked a different path and fought different personal battles along the way and so each of us has a wealth of guidance to offer in the classroom.
I guess this is all a somewhat round about way of saying is work on being the best person and teacher that you can be. Whatever you or I do that inspires people to improve is what we should be doing. Move forward, improve your craft, and keep your strengths in sight.