Teaching is the greatest job on the earth. It is not the most respected or highest paying and it does not bring you power, wealth or fame, but it is the toughest job that has the most impact on our future. Each year teachers enter the classrooms and meet students with stories. We make a connection. We set up an environment for success and safe failure. We develop communities that care about each other. We put our hearts into our jobs so these children, our children, become citizens that will make a difference. To prepare others for this profession we have the experience of student teaching. This experience not only prepares the student intern, it provides for reflection and renewal in the mentor teacher as well.
Mentor Teacher: Lori Rice– I can’t believe this journey has come to an end and how much I have learned. From modeling and thinking through each decision I make daily in the classroom, to co-teaching, to watching someone else take over my classroom I have had the opportunity to develop a deeper relationship with my students and reflect on my own profession. I have strengthened my own philosophy that by bringing together a community of learners teachers should meet each child at their level and help them find their own successes. I am looking forward to being back in my classroom full-time, and cherish the time I had to find new lessons, organize old lessons and see my students through a different set of lenses. Being a mentor teacher allowed me to strengthen my own skills.j
Student Intern: Lauren Laudan– “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.” This quote, by Ben Franklin, accurately represents my view of education. I believe in the idea of constructivist teaching and the engagement of students in the learning process. Teaching is not the same today as in the past. It has evolved from teachers who simply stand up and lecture straight from a textbook. In our continually changing, technology-driven society, teachers must recognize that our students can thrive only when we provide meaningful, challenging, and active learning experiences. However, it is essential these purposeful learning experiences foster creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving all in an inclusive classroom environment where each child feels safe and cared for. Involving every child is the key.
Fairness will be the foundation for which I build my own classroom community. However, fair does not always mean equal– each child has different needs that must be met in order for learning to occur. Not long ago, children with special needs were taken completely out of the classroom, segregated, and often considered “outsiders”. Thankfully today’s classrooms look a bit different, as these wonderful and deserving students are part of the everyday routine. I have witnessed firsthand the amazing benefits these children reap when they are placed in a regular classroom environment with a caring teacher and supportive peers. Not only can the child with special needs build relationships, develop more social skills and build self-esteem, but the other students in the class practice leading by example, demonstrating patience, and embracing diversity. Yes, for the teacher it can be challenging at times to teach a class full of students each with different needs and desires. However, it is our job to reach every single one of our students. And this can only be accomplished when we truly know our students and listen to their voice. Learning about each individual is important for every teacher.
Along with fairness and equity, I will differentiate instruction meet the needs of all my learners. Each student learns a little differently and performs better in situations that suit their learning style and/or preference. By alternating instruction I will be able to incorporate opportunities for students to learn visually, auditorily, and kinesthetically. Lastly, I believe in the power of giving students choices and allowing them to take on some of the responsibility when making decisions. When students have met at their level their engagement increases and this brings learning to the classroom.
Along with an inclusive learning community, each of my individual students’ diversity will be celebrated. Throughout my experience observing, working, and teaching in various classrooms, I have witnessed the beauty of diversity and the importance of embracing each child’s uniqueness- whether that be in their culture, race, ethnicity, or beliefs. Every student that walks into my classroom carries with them a rich history that deserves to be shared. The United States is continually becoming a more heterogeneous nation and it is no longer simply a “melting pot” of beliefs and ideas. As teachers, we have the power to make each child feel loved and accepted no matter where they come from or what they believe. We also have the opportunity to build on student differences while teaching about the beauty of individuality and the special gifts each child can bring to the world.
Classrooms are more than academics. Building a community that offers hope and success to all students in the classroom provides a backdrop for engaged learning. Teachers are here for the heart. We are here to help each child find their purpose. We are here to make connections and help our students along the journey. We put our hearts into our jobs every day so our children become citizens that will make a difference.