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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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What I Love About Teaching

Heather Wolpert-Gawron

Middle School teacher by day, Tweenteacher by night

There's a lot I love about being a teacher. Teaching is one of those rare professions that keeps your brain young, allowing you to continue your own journey as a student and a lifelong learner. We as educators speak often about creating lifelong learners, but if we aren't buying into it ourselves, then our students don't stand a chance.

Michelle Pfeiffer once said that being an actor allows her, with every new character, to learn something new, immersing herself in a distinct universe with each project. Being a teacher is that and so much more.

Keeping It Real

Each school year brings new people into your life. Each unit and lesson brings new perspectives. Each failure, when looked at formatively, can help you solve new problems. Each success, when used reflectively, can be even greater the next time.

Sharing oneself, thinking aloud, and being honest about what's working and what isn't is not about making the environment "softer." It's about creating a classroom in which students are at their best in attitude and character. It's about classroom management being better because students want to be there, learning from a teacher who is also willing to learn from them. "The one who does the teaching is the one who's doing the learning," as they say.

Teaching is a job that encourages your own growth because to do it well requires your own continuous education. Some might say that's a bad thing, but growth is about facing your demons -- or just your imps -- and dueling yourself for greater knowledge.

Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone

I believe true growth as a person can happen only by challenging yourself with situations that are not familiar to you. Throwing yourself into a job in which you can encounter people of different ethnicities and religions and with different philosophies, learning styles, and backgrounds can only cause you to grow as a person, and public education provides that environment.

And you never know how that will eventually translate. For some, it will mean a growth in empathy. For others, the fact that your brain learns something new every day becomes a means to fight old age. Remember those nuns from Wales featured in Time magazine a few years back? This group of long-lived nuns had theories about their own longevity as it related to their active brain activities. Learning, they believed, kept Alzheimer's at bay and helped their minds stay intact even while their bodies aged.

Whatever your beliefs are, the fact is that a good teacher continues to be a student. This could mean you continue to be a student in a graduate class, or you could simply be a student of your own school community.

In my ten years of teaching, I learned more from other teachers, my students, and their parents than I learned from any class in my teacher-credential program. (True, that's not difficult to do -- but that's another post.) In turn, when they saw my own enthusiasm for learning, students were more inclined to learn from me. And that's how my own happiness and growth has translated into the success of my students.

What impact has a passion for lifelong learning had on your teaching? Please share your thoughts.

Heather Wolpert-Gawron

Middle School teacher by day, Tweenteacher by night
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Heather Ditinno's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Heather,

I love the positive attitude you have towards teaching and your continued desire to learn. What a wonderful asset you are to the teaching profession and for our children.

I am an elementary teacher in Nashville TN. working with ELL students, this is my sixth year and I have decided to continue my own education by getting my Masters in Reading and Literacy. Teaching ELL students is a difficult task but one that brings me such joy and new adventures everyday. I have decided to get my masters in this field because I have such strong feelings about ensuring reading success for my students and finding new and exciting ways to teach them. Reading is a challenge for many of my students but I believe with the correct tools and a positive attitude I can guide them to be on grade level with their reading.

I would to hear more about your teaching experiences over the past ten years and hear any advice or thoughts you would like to share with me.

Thank You,

Heather Ditinno
First Grade ELL Teacher

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