By Teachers, For Teachers
As the new school year begins, there are plenty of rituals that teachers observe: the trips to office supply stores for those things that we “need” in the year ahead, the faculty meetings to welcome everyone back, and the inevitable classroom preparations that we look forward to every fall.
When that first bell rings, I want to be motivated, inspired, and contagiously happy. One ritual I'm using to achieve that mindset is creating a list of twelve things that make me passionate for the profession:
Those Kids: our biggest inspiration
On that first day, every new face, every new name, every new personality that comes through my door represents a unique potential. Nothing is more exciting to me than the discovery and scaffolding of students’ hidden strengths. Doing so is the most rewarding form of detective work. Students will always be at the top of my list of inspirations.
My Classroom: a home away from home
I know that when my students come into my room for the very first time, they will find a safe, welcoming, inviting place. They will be comfortable and ready to learn. They will feel at home, not because I have cartoonish posters and motivational sayings taped up on every wall, but because my classroom is clean, bright, and open (in every sense of that word). Other teachers come by and occasionally drop comments like, “It’s so peaceful and calm in here. I’m going to come here more often.” That’s the idea – keep the students (and teachers) coming back for their “fix” of tranquility in my classroom.
My Teaching Toolbox: creating & tweaking teaching strategies
I enjoy using all of the tools at my disposal. Yes, technology is nice. I wouldn’t trade my interactive whiteboard for anything, but when it comes to molding student minds, I much prefer the less concrete tools of methodology. Whether the “tool” is a newfound strategy, a thinking map, a kinesthetic, a visual aid, or the project ideas that fill my mind day and night, these “things” are part of the reason why I teach. What other profession would allow you to have this much fun, and then pay you for it simultaneously?
School Supplies: I love the smell of textbooks in the morning
Yes, I’m an English teacher. But I’d like to think that teachers of every subject area are equally excited by their curriculum, whether it’s mandated or self-selected. If you’re not enthused by the materials of your trade, you can bet that your students won’t be either.
Professional Development: learning for the learned
We all have certain peers who view professional development as an unnecessary evil; something that detracts from what they term “valuable classroom time.” I, on the other hand, am never more motivated as a teacher than when I’ve just returned from a conference, seminar, workshop, or demonstration of new teaching technology. Learning should invigorate us as educational professionals – if it doesn’t, then expecting our students to be engaged in learning becomes the ultimate hypocrisy.
My School Community: the usual faces, the unusual possibilities
Please don’t misunderstand me; I love summer vacation. However, my school and the people that work there have become much like my second home and my extended family. There is a lot of talk among administrators who are trying to foster a “community of learning” by building camaraderie and team spirit. My school has all of that and then some. Teachers look out for each other, and the students always come first. Many schools have slogans, mission statements, and visions that aim to please parents, the public, and any “experts” that might set foot on campus. The schools that live up to their words, however, are precious few. I’m proud to say that my school lives out its mission every day, and our students are living proof.
Extra-Curriculars: grass stains, concession stands, & cheering crowds
Last year, I didn’t make it to as many sporting events at my school as I would have liked. The reasons were many and diverse, but at the end of last semester, it felt like some small part of the school year experience was missing. I hadn’t had the opportunity to see my boys and girls live out their passions on the playing field or court – that place where they felt most at home and alive. As a result, my bond with those athletic students was not quite what it had been in years prior. I felt like I had robbed myself of a unique opportunity. This year, you can bet that my wife and kids and I will be cheering on as many of our school’s teams as possible.
My School Cafeteria: is that tapioca?
Admittedly, some school cafeterias are sub-standard. I sympathize with those teachers who have to eat “mystery meat” and “leftovers stew” on a near-daily basis. The jokes about cafeteria food throughout history are numerous and stereotypical. However, I cannot empathize with teachers who complain about school lunches any longer. My school’s dining hall serves up near-gourmet meals for teachers and students alike. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are ice cream days (my personal favorite), and the vast selection of foods for students and teachers alike is almost overwhelming. Thank you, food service staff, for your incredible works of art. I feel sorry for those poor souls at other schools who choke down things like “pimento loaf” regularly, but I can’t say too much. After all, it’s hard to complain when your mouth is full of Bananas Foster.
Field Trips: “who needs to use the restroom before we go?”
Field trips for kids of all ages inevitably prove to be the most memorable “high points” in a school year. When students are asked at year’s end what they recall most vividly from their studies, the answer most always includes, “Our trip to (wherever it was).” Being part of these students’ greatest memories is an honor and a privilege, and it is yet another reason why I would never choose another day job.
My Teaching Past: reminders of a great history
Each new school term, I have a few students from prior years who return to campus or who send an email telling me how successful they’ve become. Sometimes they tell me how my class has impacted their college life, or maybe they’re just expressing some fond memory of a novel we read years ago. It is these types of communications that keep me teaching and encourage me professionally. Every teacher should have those memorable students whose lives they’ve touched; without them, all the grades and classroom time in the world are worthless.
My Teaching Present: the here and now of every day
Engagement in the moment of my teaching career yields endless possibilities. What I am doing presently will either be remembered fondly and recalled correctly, or it will be tossed out of so many memory banks like yesterday’s smelly garbage. My aim is to spend each class period getting students to connect to our studies in a real, personal, and meaningful way. To do less would be a violation of the trust that comes with the title “educator.”
My Teaching Future: what might the future hold?
Granted, I’ve put this last, but it is certainly not least, to use an old cliché. Where might we go? What might we do? The lesson plans are written, but who can truly guess what might happen to enliven or expand them in unexpected ways? I know that I am ready to delve in to the gift of a new school year. My hope is that every educator, novice or veteran, feels the same way, and that every student will reap the benefits of our eager aspirations. May our love of teaching shine in all that we say and do, and at the end of every day, may our students continue to be our greatest reward.
What makes you passionate about teaching? Share in the comments section!