One of the things I like about social media is keeping up with friends and family, near and far. From first day of school photos to graduations, new babies to 90th birthdays, it makes people seem closer than they are, especially as we emerge from the pandemic. As a retired educator, I am very attuned to what my fellow teachers are doing, and my Facebook friends list includes teachers at every level. From Pre-K to graduate school, the school year is humming along. And this seems like an appropriate time to share some thoughts on teaching students of any age. So I share the five things I think every teachers knows.
- The “Aha” Moment- when you present new material to students, you are trying to make sure that everyone in your class understands the concepts. There are a multitude of ways to do this, and they vary based on the grade level and content. Class presentations and discussions, written work, exams, role plays, small groups- the list goes on. No matter what method you are using, you are continually scanning the class to see how things are going- and you become an expert at gauging understanding. One of the best moments you can experience in class is seeing students begin to understand the content- and it is usually something you can see in their expressions. Teachers know this as the “aha moment”. It is like watching a light go in when the room has been dark. And it is one of the things I miss about teaching.
- Teachers Are Always Thinking Of New Ideas For Their Classes- I have been retired for over a year, and I still think of court cases or other current events in terms of how interesting it would be to share them with students. My office was located next to one of the teacher education classrooms for several years, and I enjoyed hearing the ways future teachers were learning how to work with students in creative and innovative ways. Their methods are based on research and curriculum decisions are made at administrative levels, but there is still a lot of creativity and spontaneity that occurs.
3. Teachers Take A Lot Of Work Home- college professors have a more time outside the classroom than our K-12 colleagues, but we all work in the evening and on weekends. Grading was the primary work I did during those times, but administrative work, answering emails, and supervising part time faculty all took time and effort. K-12 teachers may also be working on advanced degrees. College faculty are expected to do research and contribute to their chosen field of study. The list goes on. Suffice it to say that teachers at any level are almost always working on something related to their jobs.
4. Teacher Tired Is A Thing-the beginning and end of every school year are very busy, but that isn’t the only time teachers are tired. Being in charge of a classroom is very intense work, and the younger the students, the more intense it can be. Lesson plans change in a matter of minutes, and there aren’t any breaks. Getting to the restroom is a challenge, and lunch time for K-12 teachers isn’t just fast, it’s usually less than 30 minutes. Keeping a schedule like this leads to fatigue of major proportions, aka Teacher Tired. When politicians complain about the amount of time teachers have off in the summer, or the size of their classes, I always think they would change their views if they spent a week in a grade school classroom. Better yet, that they take the students on a field trip, prepare them for standardized tests, and then analyze that data.
5. Being A Teacher Is Who We Were Meant To Be-I used to teach a first year seminar class for our new students. On the first day of class, after I went over the syllabus, and did an ice breaker so that we could all get acquainted, I gave them some generic advice about the transition to college learning. One of my messages was about their professors. I told them that all of the professors I knew, myself included, loved the subject we taught. We could talk at length about obscure concepts with enthusiasm and energy they might find strange. But the take away was that while they may not love our subject, I hoped they would appreciate the breadth and depth of their instructor’s knowledge.
If you get a chance, thank a teacher you know this week. Their work is frequently undervalued, but it is one of the most important careers around. And I will close with a funny post pandemic bumper sticker I saw on a car recently. It said “You were wrong- my child isn’t a joy to have in the classroom”.