I’ve ALWAYS wanted to teach. Since I was a young girl. My dad had discovered a desk in the garbage at his work that was an exact replica of my teacher’s desk at school. I was thrilled. He also found a chalkboard which he mounted in the basement next to my recycled desk in my make-shift classroom. My sister was four and a half years younger than I. My curriculum, however, consisted of recouped purple dittos from my teacher’s garbage can. Therefore, as my pupil learning what I had just learned, she was well ahead of grade level. Her willingness to please her older sister made her a highly motivated student. Her kindergarten teacher reported to my mom that her writing was exclusively in cursive and could she be convinced to print, thank you.
I love it all, the lessons, the learning, the art projects. I was hooked. However, who and what to teach was still a question mark for me all the way until I entered college. I loved learning and typically I wanted to teach whatever subject I loved most and at my current age. Since my last stint in school was in high school, I selected teaching high school. After all the content was so challenging and interesting. I was torn, however, between History, Spanish and Math. You might be surprised that I selected Math. Well, at least based on the responses I get from EVERYONE I tell that I teach high school Math. I loved that it was so clear cut. I could clearly discern whether a student understood the content or did not understand the content. It was step by step procedure and seemed “easier” to teach. Since then, I’ve changed my mind about Math’s predictability, methodology and the importance of unscripted rich problem solving. But, that’s for another time–this is the BEGINNING of my story.
For approximately every 30 children in the US, there is a teacher. We are an army of face wipers, coaches, and empathetic ears. We deliver content, challenge, tutor and seek to inspire. But, what brought us to this point? What drove us to do, what I believe, is one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs? I’d love to hear your story! Please share in the comments below. Include in your response if you would have chosen the same age & subject if you could do it all again.
Last year was the first time I co-taught Geometry with a Special Ed teacher. While originally hesitant to share my classroom (I definitely have control freak tendencies), I LOVED it! It was wonderful to have two professionals in the room to instruct, assess and care for our room full of kiddos. You can read a bit about my co-teaching reflections here.
While my experience was extremely positive, that might not always be the case for all co-teachers. For some, relationships between co-teachers can seem like an awkward partnership. Some are just “playing nice for the kids.” We can do SO much better than that!
In an attempt to get a jump start on establishing solid co-teaching relationships, the instructional coaches provided a Co-Teaching workshop on the first inservice day of the new school year. After a brief presentation given by my co-teacher Jeff and I, and our new instructional coach Emily (who is a huge advocate for co-teaching) we provided an opportunity for a co-teaching “first date.” The “first date” consisted of a list of conversational topics from personality type to classroom management styles. The main objective was for teachers to find a common, workable ground for their classrooms.
I’ve included both the presentation and the “first date” discussion sheet. Perhaps you and your co-teacher might want to have a “first date” as well?
Best wishes to all those co-teachers out there partnering to provide the best possible experience for those sweet faces in their classrooms! Make this the #bestyearever .
This year I have a student teacher. She’s fabulous–eager, positive, motivated! One of her assignments was to ask my partner in crime and I about our “philosophy of teaching.” I told her, “Actually–I wrote a paper as an assignment for a graduate class I took several years ago!” Bringing it up again, it remains true today. I have changed A LOT of things about my instructional strategies but these values I still hold true.
- Students must believe that you care. By way of introduction, in my class, I tell all students that I am a member of their team. Their success is my success and vice versa. It is amazing to me that any student would think that a teacher is “out to get them.” I want my students to believe that, more than anything, I want them to shine. If I can get each one of them to believe that he or she is my favorite, I’ve done just that!
- Active students are thinking students. Although I avoid lecture as much as absolutely possible, there are times when I believe direct instruction is the clearest method of instruction. I want students to be sorting, moving, thinking, describing, hypothesizing…active!
- Never waste a minute. In my classroom, everyone (including me) is working hard from bell to bell. There is so much to think about and discuss, I don’t want to waste even a minute…and I don’t! When students say that my class is the fastest class in the day, I know that I must be doing something right. After all, time flies when you’re having fun.
- Students want to succeed. Many of my colleagues have said that students don’t care. They are lazy and uncooperative. On the contrary, every student I have ever had has wanted to learn. Some students have become experts at masking the desire to learn because they’ve been unsuccessful for so long, it is easier to pretend like you don’t care than to admit failure. I truly believe that if students are convinced that you believe they can learn, they’ll start believing, too.
- Students have learned when they can show you they have learned. Over the years I have become a huge advocate of the use of exit slips. In my class, I refer to them as the “Ticket to Leave.” I tie the question strictly to the objective for the day. The exit slips have become an accurate litmus test regarding the success or failure of all of my instruction. I also love being able to have one on one contact with each and every student.
- Be silly! Though I am, without a doubt, a type A person, I am also very silly—particularly in front of my students. When I let my guard down, so do they and we become like family. By the end of each year, I truly love my students and I’m convinced I will never love another group as much…that is, until next year.
- Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life. I’m not sure who first coined the phrase, but I believe it! Shhh! Don’t tell my boss, but there are days that I think I’d do my job for free. Everyday, I have eager students with a desire to learn and provide me with more encouragement that any person deserves. I hope my students can find a similar passion in life.
- Everything that is self-fulfilling follows hard work. I might have been a Puritan in another life. I believe in a hard day’s work and feeling good after a hard day’s work. Sure, my students can take an easy class where they can simply breathe and earn an A or they can challenge themselves. Though it may require more work, in the end, the payoff is a better education and the ability to think critically.
- Model good character. I’m certainly not perfect, nor do I pretend to be. However, I believe maturity is measured by progress in the qualities of goodness, honesty, integrity and humility. In addition to the Pythagorean Theorem Corollary, I would hope my students would walk away from my classroom with a lesson on these critical character traits.
- Praise! Praise! Praise! While I don’t feel students should receive hollow compliments, a thoughtful word of encouragement can change someone’s life. Critics of this generation say that they’ve received too much praise. I disagree. The truth is that the world regularly beats us down. We never feel smart or attractive enough. Insecurity is the unfortunate mantra of every teenager. During a time when parent-child relationships are strained, an uplifting word from a trusted adult is just what the doctor ordered!
How about you? What would you add as one of your Ten Commandments?