Education. How does one even begin to describe what goes into a seemingly simple nine letter word? A word with such complexity and universal range. If we look at the depth in which education plays a role in our lives, it is incalculable. We are not only tasked with teaching basic skills, but we are directly developing the future teachers we will work and live alongside. The amount of variables we have to take into consideration each day would rival those working on the new waves of space exploration. We are tasked with cultivating compassionate, reflective, eccentric, effective and reliable individuals each and every year.
When I was hired for my first teaching position, I spent many nights staring at curriculum wondering how to construct activities that would allow my students to master the set objectives. In theory, I had mastered the requirements to teach. Yes, I graduated from college. Yes, I knew how to write lesson plans. Yet, I wasn’t prepared for the reality of teaching. The “students” in college were my classmates, who raised their
hands, were living in a place they felt safe, had enough food to eat, knew how to be organized, knew how to read and write, weren’t actually being graded by me, and were able to maintain focus for 40 straight minutes. Reality grabbed me by the shoulders during that first year. I realized teaching was not for those who cannot think on their feet and adjust quickly. It is not for those who lack empathy and compassion. Teaching requires an intrinsic and ambitious dedication to hard work every single day. My students were diverse in every aspect of the word and achieving state-mandated objectives soon turned my ideal world into a far-away planet I was merely looking at through a telescope. I also realized that good intentions were not enough. Technical excellence was required and I was not going to be able to do this quickly nor without the help of others. I turned to everyone who had the positive energy and drive necessary and we formed a team who set specific goals: 1. Students come first 2. Activities will be purposeful 3. We will grow professionally. Thirteen years later, students are as diverse as they ever could be, state-mandated objectives have only increased and that telescope I was looking through feels as though it is in constant need of refocusing to find that planet that hosts the initial world I had visualized so long ago. Yet, an astounding aspect of teaching is like-minded, passionate, engaging, diverse people are drawn to the profession and I have found that I am always working toward a common goal with a team whose main focus is students first. Every day.
As teachers, we enhance, enrich, and embroider the lives of our students, no
matter their age, with the passion we exude each and every day. Once they
leave our classrooms, they are better versions of themselves, pushed to levels
they never knew they could reach. We allow our students to tap into their
natural strengths. We help them recognize the areas that might stifle their
progress and give them the essential tools they need to monitor and adjust.
Teachers are the ones who have taught people how to persevere, communicate
boldly yet responsibly, and advocate not only for themselves but for those
whose voices are underrepresented, while simultaneously teaching varying
levels of reading, writing, arithmetic, music, art, physical, emotional, and mental
health. Teaching is a commitment not just to one’s own personal excellence
but a commitment to another person’s identity and excellence. We need to be
challenging our future teachers with this same idea. What lies before our future
teachers is ever changing, and each day we need to be providing our students
with the best opportunities to prepare for what lies ahead.
We cannot ever truly reach perfection, but we can refocus our telescopes. We can continue to grow professionally, impact students personally and build an environment where our kids are nurtured, loved, and pushed past their comfort zones to reach beyond their own perceived limitations. We travel through our lives as educators, making decisions every day to benefit our students in ways that may never directly benefit us – we simply recognize doing our best influences the communities and families tied to our kids. The longevity and range of a teacher’s impact cannot be calculated even by those working on the new waves of space exploration. We are the solid foundation on which our society is built and thrives.