For 5 years I have “reflected” on my teaching experience. I’m not sure what motivated me to begin beyond an overwhelming feeling of fullness; I needed to get rid of some things to make room for others. Of course that snowballed into a habit of binging and purging on teacher stuff. Then came the readers who actually made comments on my ramblings and, well, the rest is recorded here in the last 99 essays on teaching. This is number 100, and my last, at least here, for now. Here is a link for those who wish to continue reading on.
I am a teacher of elective classes. Some think the teaching of electives is easy. I teach a subject that students like to take, but I am a department of one and I write most of my curriculum alone. My pupils are not automatically enrolled; they have to choose the course. So elective teachers live and die by the number of students that enroll into their classes. Not enough students? No class. Yes, some students walk in enthusiastic and ready to learn. Others have a low expectation for the quantity of work they are required to complete in their elective.
It’s easy for an elective teacher to claim that school should be fun; we often teach “fun” topics. But why are they fun? Is multimedia fun by its very nature? Maybe. Or maybe it’s the teacher that makes it fun. Is English fun? How about Algebra? I believe it depends on the teacher, their attitude, and their approach to class. Notice I didn’t say the students. The students will react to the tone set by the teacher. The teacher must be passionate about the subject he or she is teaching, well qualified to teach students, and committed to their success.
These may be dark days in education, but I am optimistic. Budget cuts have lead to teacher layoffs, increased class size, and fewer teaching resources. Although we have grown to love our smart boards, LCD projectors, and computers in every classroom, the technology and visual aids are NOT what makes teachers great. Teachers have successfully taught throughout the ages without all of the extras that we currently enjoy. And students have learned. Sure it’s frustrating right now, and of course we’d like it to be different, but teachers will endure. We will continue to teach our students regardless of circumstances.
If I had to sum up my message to teachers in a paragraph, it would be this one. Invest in your students. Don’t just share your passion for learning, but infect your pupils with it. Teaching is the most important job in the world; and teachers change and improve the world. What we say to our students, how we treat them, and what we teach them in our classrooms has a deep and lasting impact on their lives. The words and actions of one teacher ripple throughout the classroom, and into the entire world. It is not an easy job.