Here’s Hoping They’ll Be Better Than Us…

50s Classroom

National Library of Australia on  Flickr through The Commons

Hello there, you crazy world, you!

Let’s be honest here, when reading someone’s introductory blog post, you care very, very little about that person’s credentials, experiences, etc. I could tell you where I’m from, where and what I teach, my educational philosophy, or heck, even my star sign.

But that would all be boring. Look in the “About” section if that is what you want.

What I will tell you about are better explanations for why I teach than any “About” section ever could be.

Throughout my career, I have come to see more and more that my educational philosophy and the decisions I make on a daily basis are driven by my own experiences as a student. I was a kid that heard and felt every comment from every teacher and internalized it deeply—for better or for worse. Those memories from my own education are marked with a range of emotions–from wonderment, engagement, mind-blowing euphoria, and raw emotional expression, to boredom, frustration, anxiety, and downright sadness. I am driven as an educator to repeat the wonderful decisions of my past educators that brought forth such powerful feelings in me; even more so, I want to never repeat the mistakes of those educators who brought out the negative emotions and shut down my interest in certain subjects forever.

The following is a list of ways that I wish my own education was different; the things I hope to vindicate from my own past by doing them differently in my own classroom. I also want to honor those who stood out and inspire me to this day. These are the reasons why I teach.

If my education had been different…

…there would have been an adult advocate for me at school so that my teachers would have realized that when my dad lost his job in 5th grade, it didn’t really help me emotionally to get yelled at for not doing my homework. I couldn’t. I couldn’t focus at all. I was 11 and didn’t understand.

…an adult would have realized that I was a very sad kid who desperately needed to talk to someone about being the new kid in school and how hard it was to deal with bullying.

…”College Bound Reading” wouldn’t have been an OPTIONAL course in high school. To this day, I am ashamed by how many classics I missed out on. Of course, my stressed out high school self took the easy way out. No one told me to challenge myself; that it would be worth it later on. My class read a textbook instead of the classics. Sad.

…my writing classes would have allowed for creativity that wasn’t simply expository. Never once did we write poems, or analyze song lyrics, or heck, even write good short stories!

…my history teachers (save for one EXCELLENT and LIFE-CHANGING US History and Government teacher) would have asked us deep and thought-provoking questions,rather than turning on a documentary or asking us to fill-in-the-blanks on a worksheet while reading from the textbook.

…my humanities teachers would have recognized that we were more than capable of understanding complex philosophies, and political and social theories. I found myself embarrassed many times by my own ignorance in both college and grad school just because I hadn’t been exposed to what was apparently “required reading” elsewhere.

…my math and science teachers would have shown me all the incredible “magic” humans can achieve through these disciplines…how people use math and science to save the world and help others. These subjects were lost to me through methodical and dry teaching that lacked purpose.

…my school would have offered computer science classes that actually showed me what an incredible future we were heading toward and how essential skills like coding HTML would become.

Of course, I would be remiss not to mention the incredible ones. I teach because of Mr. Busse and his ability to get even the most disinterested of students engaged in historical conversations, as well as his attempts to get to know who his students were on a personal level (thanks for always seeing my plays!) Most importantly, he was the only one who pushed me (and so many others) to challenge myself and see my own potential as a historian.

I teach because of Mrs. Bassler and Mrs. Dipple-Shackelford and their recognition that many of us needed the arts in our lives to be whole.

And from long ago…I teach because of Mrs. Parker, my 2nd grade teacher, who was so “cool,” she inspired me to set up a classroom in my parents’ basement at the age of 8, not to be taken down for years. (Did I ever take it down?)

We learn best from our own experiences and can’t help but be shaped by them in our own careers as educators.

That is the spirit of this blog: PROGRESS from the education we teachers received as children.

Let us correct the mistakes of the not-so-great teachers and be even better than our best teachers…

…so that our students can be even better than us.

A teacher can only hope.