Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Back to School

It's a little strange this year not going back to school. I miss it. I miss some of the teachers I worked with and I definitely miss the kids I taught. It is so fun to be a role model and teacher for kids. I loved the harder kids. The ones who don't have a lot of stability in their lives. The ones who show up on the first day and you think- ok this is going to really stretch me. I love it. That's why I went into teaching.

Teachers are the glue that holds our education system together. With a great teacher a kid can go really far. With a bad teacher a kid can believe they are not worth investing in and stupid. A teacher can change a kid's life... for good or bad.

I remember some of my teachers.

My high school chemistry teacher was awful. He taught for 20 minutes of each class and let us "hang out" for the rest of the time. I didn't understand and even went in for extra help before school because he coached the tennis team after school. He would sit on his computer and tell me to read a page out of the text book instead of answering my real questions. I learned nothing and decided science was impossible. He would have a former student bring him lunch every day during my class and talk to her for most of the class. My mom even met with him and he blamed my bad grades on me. He was later fired for having an affair with the former student who brought him lunch and poor teaching.

My 7th  grade History teacher was the best. Mr. VandenBelt. He always had cool activities for us to do. We had a huge mock court project where we put the leaders of the Alamo on trial and examined their actions. (It was Texas history). We role played and I was a lawyer. It was really fun. Mr. V knew things about me- like who I lived with and what things I was interested in. He cared about that. He would walk around with a  bicycle horn attached to a plastic pitcher and blow it at kids who had gum during class changes. They had to spit their gum in the pitcher. He kept it on his desk and it was disgusting. I loved him. He now teaches AP at my old high school.

Great teachers....

- love the kids. Do what they do for kids. Period.
- don't need awards. They don't need to be "Teacher of the Year" or get a Golden Apple. Their reward is the smile on a kid's face when they succeed. (Although when those great teachers are awarded- it's a bonus!)
-create a safe space for kids. Kids know that they can succeed if they work hard in a great teacher's classroom.
-persevere. Things are hard. Parents. Schedules. Other Teachers sometimes. Curriculum. Tests. Hours. Grading. Meetings. Great teachers keep loving their kids and doing the best they can despite those things.
-are creative. They know that what works for one kid may not work for the next. Teaching is about tests- but mostly about learning. How can one kid understand this and another kid too? What can I do to motivate them to care about this? Why is this important to my class? Is this fun? Is this a waste of time? Creativity is a must!
- are flexible. Lessons may have to change on the spot. A fire drill may interrupt an activity. A kid may have a meltdown in the middle of a lesson. A question may be asked that absolutely has to be addressed. A student may need some extra attention to boost their confidence. Great teachers know what is needed and adjust for those needs.
-discipline well. They are prepared and have great procedures. It is possible for any kid to be successful because of the preparation that went into their work. A lot of discipline is taken care of by doing those things well. Discipline from then out is firm and fair- not done to embarrass or belittle.
-have failed and learned from it. Teachers don't just become great overnight. It is a learning process. :)

Like I learned in college- "Capture a kid's heart and you will capture their mind forever."

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