Saturday, November 19, 2011

More than just lectures, tests, and papers

I am thankful for teachers.
When I stop and think about just how big of a role teachers play in shaping the attitudes and futures of the youth, it really makes me feel nervous. I'm going to be playing that role someday! Either as an actual teacher at a school, or as a teacher for my children. Or as a teacher in Primary, Relief Society, Seminary, Young Women's, or Sunday School [been there, done that] for my church. The point is, there will be plenty of people down the line that will look to me for guidance. And despite how humbling and frightening that is, I have great examples to look to of teachers in my life, from whom I have learned the proper... and improper... ways to go about teaching.

It amazes me what teachers are able to do. I don't think that the workload matches up very well with the salary. Especially given the fact that these teachers are paid to "teach the future leaders of America". The thing is, I think the quality of teaching is decreasing as the years go by, so perhaps some teachers are not even deserving of the salary they get. But teaching is so much more than all the fluff of assignments and grading and quizzes.

A teacher's main goal should be to make sure every single student not only gets engaged in the learning process, but that they learn and understand the material. They should walk out of class everyday with something beneficial. Never waste a day as a teacher, not one! There is a trick though... how do you engage everyone at once? Some people may not like the subject you teach, or may not be good at it. Every student learns differently too, so you cannot just teach via the same method every day and expect everyone to stay involved. You have to be unexpected with your methods, but not intimidatingly so. It keeps the students interested, keeps them wondering what you'll do next. Design your lessons in a way that will make students realize that what they are learning can be applicable in other areas in their life outside the walls of the classroom.

There is still more to teaching than what/how the students learn though. The adolescent stage of human development is a very trying one, and students attempt to identify themselves and exert their independence. Teachers need to be understanding of the emotions and struggles that teens go through and need to react to their students' needs accordingly. The best teacher that I ever had in my life was one of those rare gems who actually took the time to care for her students. Out of all the teachers I've ever had, she was the one whom I felt the safest around, the most open around. She challenged me and tested me in more ways than one, but then built me up again right afterwards. I never walked out of her class without some new insight, either into my life or into the subject she taught. My classmates and I often claimed that "...she didn't just teach German. She taught life." Even until this day, I have yet to find a teacher who influenced me more than she did. I feel so fortunate to have taken her class for 2 1/2 years before cancer took her life.

Frau Koopman - Ich vermisse dich. Vielen Dank für alles, was du für mich getan hat.

Isn't it saying something that a teacher... just one teacher... meant so much to me? If I could adequately convey what an impact she had on my life, then maybe it would be a bit more clear why teachers are so important. Also, it's ironic how my favorite teacher and my least favorite teacher both had cancer. The difference was how they approached their condition. All I'm going to say is... don't ever ever ever share stories about your personal life that are designed to guilt-trip your students into feeling sorry for you. It will backfire in your face.

I am so incredibly thankful for the time, effort, and care that good teachers put into their jobs. I'm thankful that they are patient enough to deal with the attitudes and drama of youth. I'm thankful for their wisdom. For their diligence. For their willingness to share their knowledge. Teaching really does take effort, and the end result is well worth all the hours of lesson planning, lecturing, and grading. Even though it's a little daunting, I look forward to teaching people. It just makes me feel good to know that I'm making differences in the lives of others.


  1. What teaching opportunities do you get these days?

  2. ...This comment got so long that it basically turned into a mini-post... (oops! haha)

    As far as academic teaching goes, I've had the opportunity in one of my classes to team-teach a lesson with another girl about body language in relation to monologue performances. I'll get to do more actual teaching in future semesters... but as of yet, I've done more lesson planning than teaching. I prepared an entire short theatre unit about "Phonetics and Enunciation" and that was time consuming! And it was just one 2.5-week unit! It was a tiny taste of what teachers have to go through... planning units for the entire year (for multiple classes too!), writing up test questions, putting together supplemental materials... it's quite a process!

    I was a Sunday School teacher over the summer when I was in my home Singles Ward. That was an interesting experience. I also got to create/teach some hip-hop choreography for a skit earlier this year... that was fun...

    Looking back though, I honestly think I had way more teaching opportunities in high school than I have had in college. So far. That'll change once I get further into my major though. For now though, it's all about lesson planning and 20-minute group presentations.

    And then there's just the little, tiny every-day teaching opportunities that I get from, for example, explaining something to a classmate, or just teaching by example.