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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

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.

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Dawn Smith's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This is my first time experience with blogging, and I am sorry to say that it had to be a course requirement for me before I would try it. Honestly, I have never even thought of the idea of expanding my knowledge through the use of weblogs. So I have to say that I too agree with the comment about stepping outside of the zone and trying new things being a great way to be a learn right along with the students.

Bruce Thomas's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hey Tim, I am also in the master's program at Walden (Math & Reading), and it is very challenging. Teaching for me is a way to give back to the community. I love shaping young people lives from a positive perspective. I am a teacher at Hunt Elementary in Fort Valley, Ga.4th grade. The need for men at the Elementary level is just as important if not more than it is at the Middle or High school level. I believe if we start young with developing early study habits, note taking skills, and teaching different learning strategies, we can make a difference. Young boys need to see men in a positive light, regardless of ethnicity. This is not to say that women are not doing their job in teaching our boys academics. My Elementary teachers were all women and I turned out fine. My biggest challenge is getting the community involved early in their children academic lives.

angelea's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I don't view teaching as a job. When I get up every morning, I go to school, not work. I am committed to being a life-long learner. In order to be effective, I know I must grow and be willing to step outside of my confort zone. I long to learn new things. Two years ago I stepped out of my comfort zone and began teaching an inclusion class for 4 year olds. I have learned so much from my children with disabilities. I have learned to look for the abilities in all of my students. I now see their abilities and not what they can't do. My heart is now 10 times the size it was 2 years ago. I love what I do and I look forward to each new day!

Rachel Santos's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree with you I myself thought the same way, that I am a lifelong learner. That everyday is a new challenge for me. It is always a new beginning it is never ending. A challenge I encounter everyday where I learn a lot, from my students, parents and colleagues. I believe that we learn more from our students than our colleagues at work. Learning is a continuous process. I think our students are one of our mentor too. They learn from us we learn from them. I teach Pre-K in a small private school in Orange County,California.
Keep up your good work! May God be with you always!

Camille Wright's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I love my job. I love being involved in the learning process of all my students. I enjoy spending time helping them understand and cope with the skills they need to be successful in life.

I feel that I learn from them just as much as they learn from me. I use what I learn to help make me a better teacher.

Alexandra Wood's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I believe that effective teachers are those who are committed to lifelong learning. Teaching is a continual learning process that requires problem solving and risk taking, to enrich the lives of every child in the classroom. I am faced with new challenges each day and it is essential for me to have a willingness to be flexible and take risks, in order to overcome those challenges. Growth as an individual, and as a professional, comes when one steps out of their own comfort zone and faces those challenging situations that arise.

Amanda Youngmann's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I wanted to become a teacher because I looked up to so many teachers that I had when I was in school. They were role models to me, and I want to be a role model for my students. One of my first placements when I was in college was working in an urban school with 5th grade students. Before this assignment I questioned if I had made the right career decision. I was tired of making lesson plans, and it seemed the work would be never-ending. Then I went to my first day teaching at this urban school. I was working with some struggling students with their division facts. After I can in a couple of times, students would beg to come work with me. I can remember a student saying "Wow I can divide, thanks for teaching me my facts!" I saw these students smile, and I knew I had touched their lives. What other profession can give you this feeling inside? Sure, some days are struggles and you don't know if you got through to a single student. But then you have one day, or one moment that you know you have touched a life and it keeps you going. That is my passion for the profession.

Yvonne Mooney's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Isn't it great to love your job. I don't view teaching as a job and when I get up in the morning I'm happy and excited. Congratulations on finding your perfect career.(school)
Yvonne Mooney

RC's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I haven't always had the passion for being a lifelong learner that I have now. I wanted to learn new things and improve my teaching skills but I wouldn't say I was passionate about it. Something on a personal level changed my attitude about being a lifelong learner and striving to be an expert teacher. It was my experience as a parent that made me think and feel differently about being an effective teacher. Without going into great detail, I'll just say that I experienced the affects of an ineffective teacher from a parent's perspective. I saw my child's personality change in a negative way from a year of having a teacher who was not effective. The teacher made no connections with the students and the areas in which my child struggled were not addressed. My child's self-esteem took a huge hit. I can't even begin to explain the impact this has had. It has changed the way I teach and view being a lifelong learner forever! My passion for teaching and learning was sparked from this life-changing event! I will never view teaching the same again. The struggle we went through has made me strive to become a lifelong learner and an expert teacher.

Melissa Miller's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I believe my wanting to learn more every year of my teaching has made me a better teacher year after year. I feel that the ways we teach are coninually changing and with all the new technologies that kids are exposed to these days, a teacher has to stay up with what is going on in their students' lives.

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