an idea is common, acting upon that idea is occasional. Many teachers have an
idea of what kind of teacher
they are or the one they hope to become. As stated
in the film Fury about World War II tankers, “Ideals are peaceful. History is
violent.” The reality of the situation is that having an idea of who you are as
a teacher is nice, but not worth much. I have more than an idea of myself as a
teacher. I know what type of teacher I am.
In the past years I have been
involved with the Professional Development Schools (PDS) student teaching
program. I began my journey scared and timid in August 2014 as I walked into
Fieldcrest High School for the first time. I could not help but notice all the
differences from the high school I had attended. First off, the school was
extremely small and in a rural area with farms covering the town lines. Second,
it almost did not need to be said, how much this town was involved in high
school football, which I made a mental note about so I could establish a good
rapport with my students. The most surprising thing however, came to me much
later in the year, when I realized, this rural farm school has many of the same
needs, problems and strengths as that of an urban school. 90% were poor and on
free and reduced lunch. Many students, over half, had no intentions of going to
college. Textbooks, pencils, and resources at home were scarce. A world view
outside of their own was almost nowhere to be found. Being at a rural school in
middle of ‘nowhere’ Illinois only reaffirmed my strong desire to teach inside
the city of Chicago.
I am a teacher that is mission
driven and passionate. I have wanted to teach history since I was about eight
years old and suddenly became obsessed with the titanic. I read books, watched
documentaries and even saw the traveling exhibit at the Museum of Science and
Industry in Chicago. Since this moment, I never saw myself doing anything else.
As some of my previous history teachers have inspired me, I hope to be that
inspiration, or that spark that goes off in my students’ heads where it all
comes together. That ‘lightbulb’ moment. Every student has their own idea of
what it means to be successful. As a teacher it is key to guide students to
success, knowing that every student, no matter what circumstances, can reach
his or her own idea of success. They do not have to get an A on every test, we
would like them to, but that is not a reality, nor should it be. It is the
small victories that count and the ones that make me proud as a teacher.
My enthusiasm and passion for history comes through
the most when I am trying to get others to have the same enthusiasm. This
enthusiasm is a key part of my teaching. I believe that if I was not
enthusiastic about my subject, my lesson or my students, teaching would be
awful. Not only for me but for my students too. Energy is contagious, when the
teacher gets excited about a lesson or subject, it makes the students feel as
if there is something to get excited about. This excitement usually turns into
interest because the students want to know why it makes the teacher so excited.
From my own experience teaching, and experience being a student, I have never
been more engaged than when the teacher was energetic and happy. The same goes
for my students. Of course, we all have off days but my students turn in more
work and participate in discussion when I get excited, pumped up and basically
make a fool of myself. If that is what it takes to peak their interest, then
why not? If I can get a student who is usually quiet and guarded to actively
participate and be excited, then in some fashion I have achieved a victory,
regardless of how small.
In an ideal world, I would absolutely love to teach
history in a thematic sense. Meaning, I would not necessarily go in
chronological order through events, but instead by themes. Using this thematic
approach gives students more of an idea of what history is actually like. Where
in a chronological approach, it is harder for students to think outside the box
and understand that history is a continual process. History is full of debates
and intrigue which are much better suited for a thematic organization. Themes
could include; war, politics, economy, race, etc. As David Christian discusses
in his book, “This Fleeting World,” A big history is better when it is small.
Being able to place notable events, people, places and ideas within a larger
framework of a theme that students understand pushes their minds to make
connections between concepts from different eras. Connections help students
understand why these ideas are important, how they relate to today’s society
and most importantly, how history relates to them personally. If a student
makes a connection personally with a historical concept, it will be hard for
them to forget and they are automatically more interested.
Moving forward in my career as a teacher I will
continue to learn and improve. I believe that learning how to teach never
really stops. Being able to pick up new technology, ideas or curriculum and
integrating it smoothly into the classroom takes flexibility and organization.
I try my best to read a book related to teaching or history at least once a
month. Ideas, strategies and materials never stop changing and it is important
to me to try and be aware and open to these changes as much as possible. I know
for a fact I will be a lifelong learner, always with my nose in a book.
Hopefully this bookworm trait will help me come up with new ideas and even more
exciting ways to teach and connect with my students.
My mission, enthusiasm and thematic approach are all
keys to my identity as a teacher. They help me to be effective in my teaching as
well as open up doors for me to continue to improve my teaching. Through my
experience I have found that I am the most proud of the ‘small’ accomplishments
of my students; a quiet student getting into a discussion, another student
spending a weekend writing a paper because she loves the topic, or a student
who never turned anything in, but with a bit of encouragement is on his way to
an A. These victories are what I teach for. These victories are why I never
give up on a student. These victories make me an enthusiastic, mission driven
and thematic teacher.