This week’s blog post is going to focus on one simple question: Why teach? I often get asked by family, friends, and colleagues “Why do you even want to be a teacher”? Over the last several years, I have been told numerous times that there are “no jobs in teaching” and people often asked “Are you sure you want to spend five years in university to become a teacher”? When I first decided to go to university for concurrent education, I let these conversations get to me because what if I couldn’t get a job? What if these people were right? What was my back-up plan? The truth is, I didn’t have a back up plan. I was going to be a teacher and I wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of my dreams.
Fast forward to 2018, I am now in my fifth year of university in my professional year and am so close to the finish line. In just a few short weeks, my peers and I will be heading out to our first placement. While this brings a lot of joy and excitement to our lives, it is without a doubt that we are all feeling a little nervous. As we prepare ourselves over the next few weeks, it is important that we remember why we chose this profession. If ever you are doubting your success as a teacher candidate, think of all the reasons why you chose this career. During these busy last few weeks, it is important to remind ourselves (myself included) why we chose teaching as a career. Nobody ever said that this profession was easy, but it is definitely going to be worth it.
So why did I choose teaching? All my life I have been a dedicated student, I tried my best for every single test, project, and assignment. However, throughout my education, I have seen a number of peers, classmates, and family members struggle throughout school. At the time, I didn’t understand how anybody could hate school so much because for me, it has always been enjoyable. But as I got older, I noticed that these negative feelings towards school are not unique; many students feel this dispassion and feel that learning is a waste of their time. My passion is to change the way students view education so that every student finds something in education that they love. It doesn’t have to be a love of math, reading, or even science. I want to inspire students to find what it is they are passionate about in life and bring that into their education through hands-on learning. After all, if we can’t make learning meaningful to a student, they are not going to find meaning in their education.
In my media class last week, we each designed a magazine cover that ‘sold who we are as educators’ so that potential school boards and principals would want to hire us. Our task was to showcase our credentials, our skills, and our personalities so that potential readers would A) purchase the magazine and B) want to read the magazine to find out more about us. So how would I bring this activity into the classroom?
I believe that students and teachers must develop positive relationships within their classroom and in order to do this, the teacher must spend some time getting to know each and every student. A great way to do this is to have students create their own magazine covers that showcases who they are, what their special talents are, their favourite tv shows/movies/books, any sports they do, family members, etc. While students can do this with pen and paper, why not step it up a notch and use technology! The platform I used was canva (which requires an account), however there are many other free websites that students can use to create their own magazine covers such as Big Huge Labs or Fake-a-zine! This cross-curricular activity incorporates digital literacy (language) and art and would be suitable for upper primary and junior grades.
Rita Pierson, a professional educator and inspirational speaker, summarizes my philosophy of education in one very simple sentence: “Every kid needs a champion” (Pierson, 2013). As a teacher candidate, I want the students I am working with to learn and be successful, but in order for students to become the best they can be, the teacher must create a positive learning environment. Have you ever heard a student who isn’t fond of their teacher come home and say they had a great day at school and learned so much that they can’t wait to go back? Not likely. On the other hand, ask a student who loves their teacher how their day at school was and they likely won’t stop talking about the activity they did during math or the game they played during language arts. Rita Pierson suggests that “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like” (Pierson, 2013). Although this is a very harsh statement, it is absolutely true that teachers frame the classroom atmosphere and it is up to the teacher to develop a positive learning environment where students will thrive. While this isn’t necessarily a recipe for student success, it is a reminder for teachers and educators to take a step back from the curriculum once in a while and understand that there is much more to this profession than just teaching the curriculum. The teacher must develop positive student relationships and interactions so that students feel comfortable making mistakes, exploring new concepts and strategies, and taking risks because “Every kid needs a champion” (Pierson, 2013).
So how do educators develop positive environments for students in the classroom? There are many aspects that contribute to the learning atmosphere and both the students and teachers are responsible for ensuring that the classroom dynamics are positive and contribute to the success and growth of every student in the class. Below is a word map created using Word Art that outlines the characteristics that I think are important to develop for a positive learning environment!
As we all wrap up our seventh week in the Faculty of Education, I encourage all of my fellow candidates to remember why we chose this profession. You are going to make a difference in the lives of so many students. Enjoy every minute that you are in the classroom; inspire, educate, learn alongside, engage, and ask questions. Remember that you are on a journey; shine bright, be confident, and make the most of this experience.
Why did you decide to become a teacher? Did anybody ever question why you wanted to be a teacher? Leave a comment in the space below!
TED Talks. (2013, May 3). Every kid needs a champion | Rita Pierson [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFnMTHhKdkw