Why Teach?

Video

This week, I taught my last 2 classes as a graduate assistant at Michigan State University. One of them was a course for our Elementary Education seniors titled Teaching English Language Arts to Diverse Learners. Most of the students in the course will go on to complete a one-year teaching internship next year.

I love working with preservice teachers. They are enthusiastic, curious, and passionate about their career choice. They are also nervous – rightfully so. About 2/3 of the way through the semester, I realized that there were quite a few students who were feeling panic. They had reached the stage of “realizing how much more they have to learn.” I saw and heard some of them questioning their decision to become teachers.

We spent time in class together talking about professional dispositions of teachers such as asking for help, acknowledging what we don’t know, as well as what we do know, and working to empower ourselves as professional educators. I am purposefully using the inclusive “we” in this description. I consider myself an educator who is always learning more about teaching. Always seeking out mentors, research, strategies, and questions to help me become better. I learned a lot from this group of students. I realized I need to do something different.

I listened. I read. I thought. I read some more. And I realized that what they needed was to learn how to begin to think like empowered teachers, to believe in themselves and their choices. I talked about my PLC (professional learning community) that I’ve developed online. I went to the Michigan Reading Association Conference and came back excited and energized to share things I had learned. I read THRIVE – Meeno Rami’s new book. I asked questions of colleagues and mentors. And then I asked them to think about things that they can do to empower themselves.

Feeling empowered as a teacher is difficult in today’s educational climate, but I know amazing teachers who are doing incredible work. And here is a group that I’m pleased to be sending to join the ranks. To help them remember their goals, profession, and passion for teaching, I asked them to complete the phrase, “I TEACH….” I hope they will watch this video now and next year to remember that they are incredible empowered teachers.

At the end of Teacher Appreciate Week, I want to thank each of them for helping me to continue to become a better teacher educator.

Here are their responses:

 

As I posted this video, I realized I hadn’t answered my own prompt:

I teach to help the next generation of teachers become empowered professionals who make informed pedagogical decisions based on what is best for their students as a community as as individuals.

 

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A new semester…

Today I’ve been thinking about the role that children’s literature plays in elementary classrooms. More specifically, the role that it does play, and the potential role that it could play. This is not to say that it is the same in every classroom – I know that it is not based only on the experiences of my own two children. But I am fascinated with how it is that literature comes to be considered and utilized so differently by so many teachers and school children. In particular, I’m interested in the ways that teachers think about it.

My goal in thinking about all of this is not to come to an answer – I don’t think that one, singular answer exists. But I do want to consider the factors that contribute to teacher thinking about literature. I know that the common core standards are currently a factor – as curriculum can be. But there are other factors as well, such as that teacher’s own experiences with books and literature. And my primary area of interest: how were they prepared to think about the role of children’s literature in their own classrooms?

I realize that these are big questions – with many possible scenarios and contributing factors, some more evident than others. But as I begin teaching a new class of preservice teachers to think about, read, and interact with children’s literature – I can’t help but wonder what they will do in their own future classrooms with the experiences we have together this semester with each other and books.

Teaching Pre-Service Teachers: a letter to my students

This past semester I taught an Elementary Language Arts Methods class to seniors in Michigan State University’s #1 ranked Teacher Preparation Program. The young women in my class pushed me to think new ways about myself and what it means to be a teacher educator. Teaching them was daunting at times – mostly because I felt a great weight and responsibility of preparing them to enter the teaching profession. Also because I know that no matter what a program is ranked, how many classes you take, or how much time you have spent with children – part of becoming a teacher is about realizing how complicated this profession really is. That can be scary. Scary to learn and scary to try and teach. As I am putting away my things from the semester, I’ve been thinking about my students and wanted to say a few more things to them. 

Dear TE402, Section 8, Spring 2012 –

Throughout the semester, I attempted to convey to you all the dance that is both conveying the importance of foundational knowledge while also modeling that a teacher doesn’t always know everything. I tried to be honest while not completely terrifying you. When a teacher realizes that they need to ask for help, look up information, or learn alongside their students. Many of us had schooling experiences with teachers who acted like the knew everything, this sometimes leads those who want to be teachers into believing that act is part of being a teacher.

Don’t get me wrong; you need to know your stuff. You need to be able to explain phonological awareness to parents, to understand the difference between homophones and homonyms so that you can explain them to your students. But you also need to be able to say, “I don’t know what platypus only live in Australia, let’s find out together.” You knew when your teachers were faking it, your own students will too.

There will be days when you don’t feel prepared to be a teacher, when you think if you had only had one more class, you could figure out this problem. But you can do it. You have the ability to problem-solve using knowledge and research, asking colleagues and accessing professional learning communities. You have the disposition of a professional educator. Believe in that disposition.

Teaching is amazing.
It is exhausting and exhilarating.
It is frustrating and fueling.
It is what forces me out of bed in the morning,
and causes me to collapse in bed in the evening.

It is hard, hard, hard work.
It is intellectual and emotional.
It is challenging in more ways
than even the best teacher ed program in the country can prepare you for.

It is political, even when you don’t want it to be.

Your identity will be questioned and pushed and stretched.
Then it will be reaffirmed by your students.

Thank you all for reaffirming why I chose to teach in a college of education. I look forward to hearing from you as you continue your journey as a fellow professional educators.

– Kristin