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

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Reconnecting with my Alma Mater & Meeting Future Teachers

My weekend trip to Colgate University, my alma mater, in Hamilton, NY started out less than ideal. My connecting flight through JFK ended up stuck on the runway for over an hour thanks to back ups caused by the recent blizzard, causing me to get into Syracuse at 1 am, conveniently one full hour after all the rental car agency desks closed. There was also no taxi to be found. It was 8 degrees outside. My fingers were frozen. Thanks to my Droid, I located an area cab company, and 1.5 hours (at 3 a.m.) and $160 later, I wound up on campus. A pleasant experience? Hardly!

Luckily, my positive experiences with the Alumni Council and Colgate seniors over the next two days made all the aggravation of initially getting to campus well worth it. Despite never-ending meetings about the state of the university, I had the opportunity to connect with lots of current Colgate seniors as part of the annual campus Real World program. I can remember all too well what it was like to be in their shoes just six years ago. I knew I wanted to teach and was going to be certified to do it, but I had no idea at the time where or who I would -- or should -- teach.

The highlight of the weekend (aside from trying to relive college moments downtown) was getting to moderate a fantastic panel on teaching with four other alumni involved in teaching or other aspects of education. The panel was well-attended, and I was sincerely impressed with the eager interest and pointed questions of the student attendees. Many wanted to know what we had to say about handling all the stresses of being a classroom teacher, how we balanced teaching with having a life outside the classroom, how to find the right school to work at, whether to teach abroad, how to obtain certification in alternative ways, and what keeps us going every day. I think we offered open, honest, and candid responses that got them thinking about what a career in teaching is REALLY like.

Following the panel, I continued several conversations with future teachers at a nearby reception. They remind me so much of myself in 2005, a time when I had many options open to me but was unsure of which path to follow. I encouraged them to teach abroad now, before they have the responsibilities of a family, children, etc. The longer you wait, the harder it is to drop everything and go teach in a foreign country. I also stressed to them the importance of keeping an active personal and social life outside the classroom. I encouraged them to continue doing what they love outside of teaching, whatever it may be, so they are more physically and emotionally available for their students. This is SO crucial!

I also recognize how lonely it can be at a reputable institution like Colgate that does not value its Department of Educational Studies or teacher certification program. When I was a senior, there were four students attaining elementary teaching certification and four others (including myself) attaining secondary certification. This year, there are four students pursuing secondary certification and only ONE in the elementary program! I guess this dismal fact does not surprise me, though, as Colgate continues to pride itself on the top median incomes of its recent graduates. These salaries, of course, come from the business, finance, and law careers, not ones in education. Thus, why put more money into a department that will churn out teachers earning trivial sums of money in comparison? It's a sad reality that I've come to accept, unfortunately.

Since my alma mater's Office of Career Services provides little to no meaningful support for future teachers, I see it as my duty to provide all the help, insight, and networking I can to these amazing young people. Each student I talked to yesterday is going into education for the right reasons and genuinely wants to make a difference in the lives of their future students. Colgate prides itself on the "Colgate Connection" -- ie: strength of alumni engagement and connections to students. I only hope to be a worthwhile "connection" for these college students pursuing an unpopular, low paying career field of teaching ... but one, I bet, that they will never once regret entering.

Bring it on, future teachers!

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