The whole art of teaching is only the art of awakening the natural curiosity of young minds for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards. –Anatole France
The last few years our district started making changes. These changes were subtle at first, but soon became a whirlwind of change. Technology changes. Standard changes. Professional evaluation changes. Assessment changes. Changes. Changes. Changes. So many changes in fact, that I feel that I can barely keep my head above water. Not all changes are bad mind you. Some of these changes are much needed. But I felt like in order to meet all these changes I needed to find a new way to teach. The district has even started talking about adopting some new curriculum to help. But thanks to a wonderful essay written by a former student and given as a gift, I realize that I don’t need a new way of teaching at all. I had forgotten the most important thing. Her words echoed what she learned from me, and what I have known to be true all along.
“I want to become a teacher. Not just any teacher. But a teacher that cares, that takes their time with their students. I want to touch the lives of children and their families. I want to make a difference in this world. I need to show other people that all kids have the ability to learn as long as they have the right amount of support and the right teacher to show them the right way.”
What have I been doing? I have been slowly forgetting the me that was her teacher. The teacher that knew who her students were and how to get them where they needed to be. The teacher that was passionate about learning. That would stop right in the middle of the lesson to talk about something that she knew to be true. The person that would teach the whole child. That would read books that educated the whole person. I don’t need a curriculum to help me do that! I know what the state expects me to teach. I can do that without an expensive curriculum. I can do that with trade books, magazines, and periodicals. I can do that with news articles and video clips. How can I teach my students to be great citizens and lifelong learners with a canned curriculum that is outdated the minute it’s purchased? How can I teach kids the love of learning while holding a twenty-pound collection of texts… most of which aren’t even complete? How can I teach kids the impact words can have in moving someone to anger, tears, or joy by doing grammar worksheets, spelling pages, and completing shallow, fill-in-the-blank, comprehension questions?
Technology? Yes. Let’s get some much-needed technology in our schools. In fact, let’s take that money we would have spent on that canned curriculum and invest it in technology. Let’s teach teachers how to effectively use that technology. Let’s teach teachers how to read, write and be passionate about what they teach. Let’s teach teachers how to find text that will engage students and entice them to want to read and learn. Because it doesn’t matter how much money you spend on boxed curriculum. If teachers and students are not passionate about what they do, they will never be effective teachers and students.
Thank you Britney for opening my eyes to what I almost became. I am sure I would have still been a fine teacher. I would have had morning meeting and a strong classroom community. I would still have been effective at teaching reading, writing, math, science and social studies with a little art thrown in here and there. But I would have been reading someone else’s read aloud. I wouldn’t be picking my read-alouds based on my students and what they needed to hear at that moment. I would be letting a canned curriculum dictate what my students read each day rather than letting my students and their needs dictate what my students read each day. I would have been caught up in moving students through a curriculum at a set pace, rather than listening to the rhythm of my students’ needs. I would have been going through the motions of teaching, each day a little bit of that passion dying out until I forgot why I became a teacher to begin with. And based on what you wrote about me, that would have been a tragedy!
God bless students who remember what they learned while in my class, and remind me of who I am at times when I have almost forgotten.
God bless you Britney! Thanks for the wake-up call!
Enjoy the Dance ;D