Are You Thinking About Becoming a Teacher?
May 28, 2017 Teaching 1024 Views
Having retired from public education after about 35 years in the classroom, I encountered withdrawal and so returned as a volunteer, guest presenter, and college supervisor. There are few thrills greater in life than working with excited teachers and engaged students.
I have discovered that good teachers want to get better; great teachers wish to advance strategies and skills; fantastic teachers want to know and be and do terrific things every day in every way to reach and teach every child. Regardless of the above mentioned category, these teachers want to improve so that their lessons engage students and bring them academic success. Yes, there are a few educators who prefer the status quo, drifting along with the current while trying to avoid stress, strain, or cultivating talents. Fortunately, I know little of these folks as I am not invited into their private realms nor do I necessarily want to go.
Inspired teachers light up the room with motivation and creativity. Students here are willing to experiment new ways of thinking and doing, dedicate their hearts and minds to growth, and eagerly develop skills through energetic effort and determination. They listen, attempt, revamp, and retool until best effort rewards them with achievement. These kids smile, furrow brows in concentration, love a challenge, and do not mind that I pop in with questions and ideas as I converse with each of them on a variety of topics. And so it was that I found myself mixed in yesterday with a crowd of 5th graders.
There to observe their student teacher as she guided them into a lesson on writing and editing, I watched attentively as they prepared for guest speakers. There were questions to present, essays to share, and anticipation about learning. They knew what they already knew about writing and they were enthusiastic to learn more. When the two editors of the local high school newspaper arrived, students were jazzed with plans for interactive engagement and collaboration. And they were not disappointed. The editors shared tips and thoughts on the creative process, cutting loose with writing flow, researching and verifying information from reliable sources, editing and revising, and constantly seeking ways to improve as a writer and an editor as well as refining the look, feel, and quality of their product. They also brought copies of their paper for each student so that after the presentation kids could peruse and ask further questions to clarify understanding of the product and presentation.
Students also bravely read aloud their personal work for a quick critique by the guests. Tips included improving headlines, paying close attention to the who, what, when, where, why, and how aspects of each piece, and constantly striving to create with verve and vivacity. Each student took feedback with grace as they really wanted these few words of wisdom to help them hone personal talents.
This presentation could have happened in any classroom in just about any school, but what made it extra special was the advanced planning and organization by the regular classroom teacher and her student teacher. As a team they had made certain the students were prepared with excellent questions and quality effort to share. Kids knew about being focused and intent on learning and they readily grabbed new ideas and put them into practice. These behaviors reflect the routines and procedures that have been established and then used to ensure that every day in this classroom is productive and free from behavioral interruptions and other types of disturbances. These routines and procedures allow every student to succeed in a safe learning environment.
So if you are really thinking about becoming a teacher - and we need great ones desperately - here are some feedback tips for you. Visit several classrooms, always entering with an open mind free from the clouds of expectations you already possess so that the uniqueness of the environment in each room can seep in. Listen for joy; watch for enthusiasm; eyeball for organization. Observe teaching techniques, student actions and reactions, movement of the teacher and the students around the classroom. Check walls and boards for goals and objectives and then determine if they match the lesson of the moment.
Read Word Walls and other vocabulary displays and decide if they are richly essential. Analyze questions as to quality and rigor. Yes or No responses are quick and easy but really reveals\ little understanding or the ability to apply knowledge. Ask questions of students and teachers, always making sure that you are not interrupting but rather enhancing learning.
If you exit with zeal and a sense of passion, teaching might be a perfect fit for you. And while you should feel in awe and a bit overwhelmed, if you feel angry or have need to gnash your teeth, know that one of three things may have happened. One, wrong class, subject, or grade level; two, wrong day, with fire drills, assemblies, and substitute teachers; three, wrong profession.