05 May 2014

#teachingis the chance to never stop learning

In my senior year of college, I began my psychology internship at a home for adults with special needs.  The experience confirmed my desire to help others and to make a difference in the world, but it did not confirm a future career.  For my second semester internship I was placed in a learning center for high school students who were taking psychology electives. It was in this small rural learning center that I learned my true calling as a teacher. Together, my students and I explored topics of behavior, attitudes, and career possibilities. A large part of the curriculum included working with the teens on their outlook in life.  Vividly I recall conversations about making the most of less than desirable situations, and in these conversations, I realized I was learning, too. You see, as a college student I struggled with keeping a positive outlook on life, and often fell prey to circumstances in which I would play the victim, often blaming my life circumstances on being a first generation college graduate or coming from a family who struggled financially. A former college roommate even told me once (after tiring of my whining) that I was the one who could determine my life outlook and I could make a decision about whether I wanted to be happy or not (maybe I had been reading too much Sylvia Plath).
This card was sent to me by someone who knows me now.

The teens at that rural learning center taught me about my future career, so I finished my psychology degree and promptly enrolled in a Masters program to become a teacher.  Here's where all my reading of poetry paid off because I was offered a chance to choose whether I wanted to become a teacher of social studies or a teacher of English. What I knew was that I wanted to teach teenagers, and because a poetry class as an undergraduate was where I learned to read critically, I determined that I would teach English, so I could teach teenagers how to read critically. The experience with the teenagers at the learning center also taught me that I wanted to teach teenagers so that I could have the chance to...
  • never stop learning
  • encourage curiosity & creativity
  • listen
  • refine questioning techniques
  • discuss ideas
  • explore concepts
  • be flexible & open-minded
  • connect with other people
  • make a difference in the world 
This academic year, I've thought about teaching as I've taught future teachers at a local university, and I recognize that teaching is dynamic and ever changing.  I'm blogging today in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week and the Center for Teaching Quality's #teachingis campaign.  Five and a half years ago I left the high school classroom in search of leadership opportunities and a change, but I did not stop learning, nor did I really stop teaching.  Teaching is in my blood, a part of who I am and who I always will be.