“Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.” ~ Rita Pierson, Ted Talk 2013
From a very early age, and with every fibre of my being, I have always believed in the distinctive potential and value of every person. It takes all kinds of people to make our world go ‘round, and life would be rather boring if we were all the same. I look for what makes a child sparkle, and I aim to understand and be a champion for all the children in my life. This starts, as the late Rita Pierson said, with the power of connection. In every child I meet; whether that meeting is in a classroom, a hallway, a soccer game, or a grocery store, I find that it usually takes only a few minutes to make a connection. When it doesn’t, my blog post shares some additional strategies that I use to read the emotional pulse of a classroom. Developing a connection with each student in my class is my first priority as a teacher. Once students feel connected, they are able to learn.
What do I see as the purpose of “school”?
The purpose of the institution of “school” is very different now than it was in the industrial age. No longer do we need students to simply learn a set of tactile skills and eventually perform a function like a mechanical cog in the wheel of society. To be productive, engaged members of society in the information age, students need to think for themselves, understand roles, responsibilities, and moral ethics, challenge oppression, and more! This shift has transformed our purpose as teachers to encourage students to think critically, question societal and cultural norms, and explore their own beliefs. My goal is to have each student connect personally to the learning in a way that causes them to reposition their thinking, and ultimately be moved to action.
How do I as a teacher help students to get there?
Firstly, as teachers, it is our job to help a student envision what “there” could be. Without establishing those expectations, there can be no movement towards it. Students have to believe those goals are attainable, otherwise it’s easy to lose hope. Identifying the Zone of Proximal Development, that middle ground of content that is both challenging yet attainable, is paramount to this goal.
I also believe that making mistakes teaches many valuable lessons. Students should know that the classroom is a safe place to take risks and “see struggle as an opportunity”. By encouraging students to make mistakes, they learn tenacity and perseverance. These are the characteristics that precede success, and why I aim to develop them in my students.
“That is the difference between good teachers and great teachers: good teachers make the best of a pupil’s means; great teachers foresee a pupil’s ends.” ~ Maria Callas
Enabling students to take risks in the classroom allows them freedom to discover their passions. Using a variety of resources, media, and experiences, I like to challenge my students’ thinking and provide opportunities for inquiry-based learning.
“The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.” ~ Mark Van Doren
My journey to be a middle years’ teacher has been a long, winding road filled with bumps and detours. It is the people I meet along the way, especially the students, that teach me to trust in my passion, and to believe that I can be a lighter of fires and a champion of many. I look forward to offering my hand to all those, big or small, who join me on this journey.
“It takes a special person to light that fire, to raise our children’s expectations for themselves, and never give up on them no matter how challenging it might be. All of us are here because at some point somebody did that for us.” ~ President Obama, National Teacher Appreciation Day 2011