Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!

Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!
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Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions. ~ Author Unknown

My goal is to reveal one teacher's humble journey of self-reflection, critical analysis, and endless questioning about my craft of teaching and learning alongside my middle school students.

"The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called 'truth'." ~ Dan Rather

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Reflecting and Reminiscing....

Up until the summer before tenth grade, I always wanted to be a veterinarian when I grew up. I loved animals and figured this love would naturally translate to being a vet. Then I spent a summer at Tufts University School for Veterinary Medicine following my freshman year of high school and almost fainted while seeing a dog have its back operated on. Clearly, animal blood, guts, and I were not a match made in heaven, unfortunately.

Luckily, I had a Plan B. My freshman English teacher was always commenting to me what a great teacher I'd make. "Hey, if the vet thing doesn't work out, you really should consider teaching," she would tell me. "Right," I thought, "over my dead body."

Slowly but surely, I found myself most enjoying school when I could tutor and help my peers, especially with their writing. Though the Writing Center at my high school quickly imploded, my passion for helping and teaching others only grew. I found myself most alive when helping others learn as a tutor and thoroughly enjoyed my experiences in my former fifth grade teacher's class as a Cadet Teacher during senior year. I arrived on Colgate University's campus in the fall of 2001 with high hopes and great aspirations to be an English major and earn teaching certification in Secondary English (grades 7-12). Thankfully, I executed the plan well and met one of my greatest mentors as a student teacher in rural New York State. He continues to be a true friend and personal guide today.

Rather than immediately enter the unpredictable world of U.S. public education or enroll in graduate school after receiving my Bachelor of Arts in 2005, I opted for the road less traveled -- to spend a year teaching English at an international school right outside Shanghai, China. The experience there itself was incredible, though I must say I was spoiled at the impeccable behavior of my middle and high school students (Little did I know how easy I had it then!!) and a bit disheartened at the unprofessional and often embarrassing behavior of my American peers. This frustration, combined with numerous family and personal health issues, caused me to end my term there prematurely, unfortunately. Let's just say China still has my money and part of my heart, so I hope to go back at some point and finish the job. :)

Post-China, good fortune and an excellent friend connection allowed me to relocate to Somerville, MA and quickly begin a new life, this time in a new, unknown world for me -- sales. Truthfully, I am grateful for this experience at a 9-5 desk job in a teeny tiny cubicle. Not only did I almost lose my mind entirely, but I also craved being back in the classroom again much faster than anticipated. At that moment, I knew there was only one job that could fully satisfy me, as a person, intellectual, learner, leader, and guide. A teacher I was meant to be!! Yippee!!

Reenergized and again eager to learn as much as I could about learning and teaching, I was lucky enough to be accepted at and complete my Masters in Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The year I spent on campus in Cambridge was eye-opening, completely worthwhile, and constantly exciting. Never before had I been immersed 24/7 and surrounded by hundreds of peers sharing the same passion for teaching and desire to help ensure our next generation of learners receives the highest quality education possible. Every day there, I was pushed beyond my comfort zone and challenged to think outside the box -- and everything I already assumed to be a reality in teaching. My noble, eccentric advisor, Professor Eleanor Duckworth, espoused Piaget's belief of constructivist teaching, which allows the learner to construct his or her own learning and discovery. She firmly believes that the learner can accomplish far more when empowered to do so and given the chance to ask experience the lesson material hands-on. I find myself using her trademark phrases, such as "Tell me more" and "Say more about that" every day in my classroom today.

But alas, all good things must come to an end, and my year at Harvard ended far more quickly than I desired. I spent that summer acting as an Assistant Dean at a summer program for middle schoolers outside of Boston and then moved down to Washington, DC to be with my then fiance and now husband, Greg. My Harvard degree was a blessing and allowed me to easily get my foot into the door of a widely respected school district outside of DC. I began teaching at my current middle school in August 2007.

It is hard to believe that only two and a half years has passed since then. In that time, I have grown in leaps and bounds as an educator, person, teacher leader, learner, student advocate, and communicator. I am blessed to work in a school with incredibly dedicated colleagues who genuinely love to teach and are really there for the kids. I know not all teachers have that luxury.

In my next entries, I hope to explore some of the fundamental truths, realities, questions, and conundrums being a middle school public educator in the 21st century presents -- and how we, as educators, truly do have an awesome responsibility and unique opportunity to engage and inspire the future leaders of our world. It is this responsibility that gets me out of bed every morning with a smile on my face and hope in my heart that perhaps today, I will get through to that reluctant learner, witness a "lightbulb" moment in a struggling reader, instill confidence in a student with low self-esteem, or help an eighth grader better prepare himself for the challenges and perseverance that lie ahead in high school.

Read on, folks, read on....

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