A former college student of mine and aspiring great early childhood teacher, Bonita, wrote about the video below in an assignment for me this past semester. When I read the tagline that accompanied the video - Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like – well, it caught my attention. I think it will catch yours, as well.
I will begin my first year as a first grade teacher on August 19. I’ll share the story of how and why, in my mid-forties, I made it to this moment in the coming days, but for now I wanted to share a thought and video from our 19-year old daughter. She said, “Dad, watch this video and be that teacher.”
In my work teaching at our local university, I have enjoyed a unique spectator-style view into the lives of people who are working on degrees to become teachers. Every semester I am given the amazing opportunity to introduce myself to more than fifty people who are planning to work in any number of grades and subjects somewhere among the classrooms of the 21st century.
There are many hundreds of very good students whom I have known over the past decade, and then there are a handful who are truly inspired and inspiring.
This semester I think I have finally realized what sets them apart. They have the mind AND they have the heart, in equal measure. There is no doubt that many have one or the other and all of them have the mind and heart for something….but this handful have it for teaching.
They leave neither heart nor mind behind and every idea and lesson plan and motivation is better for it. When I tell them that students and their families are just waiting for them out there in this wide world of ours, their countenances brighten even more.
Together, they make an aspiring teacher a force to be reckoned with…mind and heart. It takes two.
Here at the end of another semester I am settling into the moment that I have sometimes come to dread. Entering the final, permanent grades on behalf of a group of hopeful college students is not easy. And, to be honest, it comes with a handful of emotions that I have never really been able to reconcile.
I have many students for whom it is very easy for me to type in an A for outstanding work, but it is never easy to give others an F for unacceptable work. I have a friend who has always reminded me, “We teachers are just the calculators. The students are the final grade makers.” That is certainly true and it does help to remember it, but it does not make it any less difficult. I thought it would get easier as the years in the classroom passed, but after more than a decade of it, I can tell you, if anything, it has become, not really more difficult, but certainly more painful.
In one respect it is all about points. Every project has a set number of points that are equal to an A, B, C, D, and F; and the student entering my courses embark upon this quest to fulfill as many of those points as possible by the end of the semester. Simple enough – you generate enough points and you generate a good course grade for yourself. I am just a calculator, and in the final analysis those points are all that really counts.
But then, the “messiness” of getting to know these people comes into play. Every single person who enters my classroom is, well, a person with a name. They have their good days and bad, their trials and tribulations, their families and jobs and dreams, their strengths and weaknesses…their lives. I have had students who are moms and employees and wives; those who have struggled with addictions and abuse and anxiety; happy people and grieving people; quiet ones and hilarious ones.
No student is a robot, but this is the time that I in some ways wish they were. It is the time where I have to grade them, these people I have come to know and admire; many of them just like me, who want to become the best teachers in the world, who want to make an eternal difference, and who want their students to learn so much that they become outstanding in their field. Whether they end my courses with an A or something far less than that, I know their names and very often know their stories.
Teaching is not for the faint of heart and entering the grade, it’s the toughest part.
What a word – enrichment. Though it may sound very schoolish and exclusive to the 21st century parent (or just an ingredient in a loaf of bread), it really is much more.
To enrich something is to make it fuller, richer, more meaningful and more rewarding.
Enrichment…enrichment. What to do with that word?
Here at the end of another great semester in the education department at our local college, I’ve once again had the privilege of teaching and getting to know some of the most creative and devoted future teachers in the field. It’s really amazing to me, but there always seems to be one conversation that we have as a class that I will never forget. And in this particular semester’s conversation, enrichment was the topic.
We talked about these great early childhood classrooms and how to fill them with meaning, make them richer and interesting and even, dare I say it, fascinating – for both student AND teacher. And what we were talking about was, that’s right, enriching them!
As a group of people who one day hope to teach in the classrooms of children, we decided on a new goal: when we get out there and are assigned our first classroom and we host our first parents night, we want a parent to turn to the other parent and say, “Hey, I didn’t know our kid was gifted and in the enrichment program!” The other parent will then respond, “That wasn’t the gifted program or his enrichment teacher, that was just the everyday classroom and his very own teacher!”
That’s it: our dream. We teach every child as a gifted child. We take every day with these students and we seize it like there’s no tomorrow.
So whether it’s with the students in your classroom or among the family sitting around your kitchen table; your marriage or your reading choices; your sports teams or your parenting style; the way you fish or the places you travel; how you think or what you say; who makes you laugh or what makes you think – enrich it.