I am sure that any teacher worth his salt has often asked this question; Why do we teach? I have often asked myself this question. Not only do I confront this question but everyday, I try to come up with a new answer. Why? Simply because everyday, my students need me for different reasons. They may be discouraged, they may be confused or angry. They may simply be curious or bored. The need to reinvent one's self as a teacher is on-going. Thus, the proverb:
"In teaching others we teach ourselves."
The proverb above is a true one, but after 25 years of teaching (9 years in Special Ed); I will offer you one of my own. "There are those with the power to compel students; I choose to impel students to compel themselves."
"Yes, I Was a Student, Too."
As a student myself, many years ago, I found myself in a constant battle to survive the inadequate, outdated teaching methods of the day. As a result, I existed in a constant state of fear. I found this state of mind both depressing and crippling. I then made up my mind that I would not allow any other person in my care to experience the same fate. This included my own children. 50 years later, I constantly strive to improve my teaching methods and will continue to do so for as long as I am alive.
What have I to offer students in the 21st century? Let's begin with some innovations that I developed myself as a result of experience and availing of the bright mentors that I have had at CTI. The CSTP standards that I have centered on are, #1 engaging and supporting all students, #2 Maintaining effective learning environments and #4 Planning and designing learning experiences.
"What I Have Learned so Far"
I used to think that a teacher's lack of knowledge would be the biggest liability in a classroom, but I was mistaken. I have learned that there is nothing worse than disinterest and fear in the classroom; both in students and in teachers. This, I believe is the biggest hindrance to learning. A student must find him/herself eager and willing to learn and participate, and it is my opinion that creating this attitude falls largely on the educator's shoulders. This is likely to be his/her biggest challenge. Thus, ateacher must be willing to go the extra 9 and 1/2 yards for each student.
So what have I done? I have found that in a chaotic world; giving students (especially troubled ones) some measure of control in the classroom by inviting them to help plan their own lessons gives them a measure of pride. Furthermore, it actually helps them to get over a lot of the fear that they might have regarding certain subjects. The other part is to pair students of different strengths. That way, they boost each other in the areas where they need the most help. Students must feel secure in their learning and the method that I have outlined certainly helps to get through thier insecurities. Happily, the results have been encouraging. Every one of the students in my present class has volunteered to teach lessons in Math, History and Science. Some of these students would not even volunteer to read at first. I encourage this "Teacher inside you" premise as part of building cofidence and self esteem. In fact, they look forward to "student teacher day" every week! A good example of this is a World History lesson project we had on the Battle of Waterloo( i.e. a 3D model of the battle) Every student had a hand in it; whether they were artistic or not and whether they loved History or not. What is more, they totally crushed the quiz that followed.
Here is my reflective coach's comment on the finished project. "I would suggest that a teacher's passion for the subject matter also enhances the lesson and captures the student's interest. Your Waterloo project will last in the students' minds long after the school year. The students saw your passion for History!"