Friday, January 27, 2006

How do ya like this apple?!

Everyone always has this funny reaction whenever I tell people I'm studying to be a Teacher. And yeah, that's teacher with a frakin' capital T. Teachers are one of the last noble professions out there. They take a vow of poverty, and most of are more than fully aware they could make a lot more but they are doing it because they love it. Teachers should be makin' at least 50k a year! Hug a teacher, tell them thanks for what they do. At the very least they deserve a little more respect. But anyhow, since people are always wondering what in the blazes would make me want to be a Teacher, here's why:It has been about three years since I made the decision to become an educator and during that time to this, that decision has rooted itself deeper and deeper into how sound that decision has become. The more I learn about the profession, the more I hear about the reality of it, the more I hear about the rewards and the challenges, the burnout, the benefits, the role of it all in society, the more I realize this is exactly what I need to be shooting for right now. There was a point during my volunteer experience where I was given the reigns to take the students through an exercise; being up in front of the class felt like home. I have taken that experience very seriously lately, and I’ve reflected on the things I’ve been learning with the intent to apply them in the near future. I think its an incredible thing to wield the answer to the question of what I wanted to be when I grew up, and to understand the meaning behind many of my talents. In that way, my schooling has become more enlightening than it ever has. And so over time I have generated some well grounded thoughts on what being an educator would mean to me and what I will do as an educator.
Firstly, I will preface my current philosophy of teaching with this statement; being a teacher is a high calling, one which bears a great deal of responsibility and with that accountability. Teachers often play the roles of a mentor, counselor, role model, parent and many more to youth who are often like white hot metal. No other profession has that sort of responsibility and that to me makes it noble, and it therefore becomes a sort of lifelong aspiration to be constantly growing in fitting into those roles and being able to overcome the challenges that are prevalent in the profession.

I think teaching today is different from what it was twenty years ago. There seems to be more challenges and diversity in the classroom. There is a lot of reform going on and so the profession is evolving and as a teacher wannabe Ill need to be able to adapt and work with what I can do. I’d say students today are unlike any in the history of the world. This is the information age, and I think many of the students already possess a wealth of information because of things like the internet but need to be guided in how to use that knowledge. Application of knowledge is wisdom, and I think students can do a lot with so many resources. My philosophy of teaching consists of being a teacher who guides a discussion rather than lecture. I feel that the more interaction that is going on between the students and the teacher the more that is being learned. As a future English teacher I would want students to be able to express themselves as much as possible through writing to help them define who they are and how they might be better able to think and comprehend the ideas and events around them. Being literate is a lot more than reading and understanding writing, it is the ability to study, learn, think and apply knowledge. It is the hallmark of what it takes to be educated in anything. Students need to know this. The more students are able to communicate their ideas to others and especially to themselves, then the more poignant the term reading comprehension will be to them. Students are like sponges, but I think you need to squeeze the information out of them as much as possible rather than pouring it all on, that way you can see what type of sponges they are.

I’ve come to understand that a great teacher is one whose expectations of the students are crystal clear; they are personable, entertaining, and sincere. They are creative; they know their students and customize lessons to meet the specific needs of the students. A great teacher is prepared in every sense of the word. They teach in a way that steps out of the box, allowing students to see subjects in a whole new way. A great teacher is neutral, unbiased, never judging their students by their cover, whether it be performance or appearance. A great teacher understands that a classroom needs to be open and comfortable, where the teacher and the students know each other and there is a functioning relationship, a democratic community at work between them. A great teacher has won and earned the students respect by displaying a persistent and enduring attitude of caring for the learning of their students, and above all respecting the student’s potential by adhering to high standards and believing they can achieve them. Great teachers understand their actions, their attitude, their words, their dress, their beliefs all have an influence on the students they teach, for good or ill. And most of all, a great teacher loves what they do.

I’ve come to understand the aforementioned things are what a teacher is and I will accept no other definition. I also understand it will be extremely hard to be that teacher, almost unrealistic, but not impossible. I understand that the profession is not full of blue skies, I see it as a house that is run down that needs some remodeling, that I have my work cut out for me. I somehow understand that there will be days that I’ll wonder if I’m doing what Id always hoped to achieve as a teacher, and that Ill come across a student who lets me know that I helped them and it’ll make all the difference. I understand that Ill have to deal with tough financial obligations as a male teacher who will be a provider of a family. I understand that there will be students I won’t be able to reach; there will be parents I won’t be able to impress. I understand there will be things I would want to do as a teacher but cant due to federally mandated obligations. I understand that Ill most likely complain about those types of things. I understand the first few years will be hard; that I don’t think they will get easier if I want to be a good teacher. I understand there is some cynicism about the profession, that the most effective way of teaching isn’t clear, even to the nation as a whole. I understand that I won’t make millions, that funds in schools will always be tight, that materials will often be scarce. I understand I won’t know everything about what I teach, and more often than not, I will be the student. I understand that I still don’t have an inkling of what its like to be a teacher day in and day out. But through all that, I do understand above all of it, for better or worst, that it’ll be worth it. I really don’t know how I can say that, but I know that every teacher I’ve asked who has taught all their life wouldn’t trade a moment back. That’s why I want to be a teacher.

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