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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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Comments (111)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Alexa Berryhill's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I certainly agree that the teacher is a learner in the classroom, just as the children are. I am currently in my tenth year of teaching. In this decade of working with different types of children, parents, colleagues, I realize that there is much more to teaching than what I learned about in my content-based teacher preparation program. There have been many times that I have commented on the fact that I did not learn very much from my college degree program that really prepared me for teaching. I am currently participating in an online master's degree program, which has opened my eyes to various beliefs and ideas of those of my colleagues. I am enjoying working on continuing my education. I also feel that I am most excited about teaching my students when I have recently participated in continuing my own personal and professional education.

Tim 's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Currently, I am a Masters student at Walden University. Even though I have had little classroom experience, I look forward to the challenges ahead. Last year, I filled in for a teacher at a Catholic elementary school in downtown Philadelphia. It was such a positive experience to be 'thrown' into a teaching job with students of different ethnicities and religions. I did feel that I grew as a person, which in turn, had a positive affect on the students. Each day was a new challenge and I really like that. To be challenged in a classroom environment is a learning experience for the teacher and the student.

- Tim
Currently a Elementary Reading & Math Student
Philadelphia

Tracey Alvarez's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Teaching is more than a career. It is a passion. The passion to touch the life of at least one child in a way that you know you had a part in who and what that child becomes in life. Teaching is an ongoing process that deepens with every year. The knowledge we have to offer is important but the enthusiasm, drive, commitment, hope and love we can instill in a child will be forever priceless throughout his/her life. Diversity is prevalant in today's society and we must adapt to our envirnoment. We as teaching professionals teach more than just ABC's and 123's.

Heather WolpertGawron's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Don't worry. Not only is what you're feeling normal, it never goes away. That is, every year the night before school starts, I have a sleepless night. It's because you care, otherwise you'd just shrug it off. Jump in and do it, it will come back to you. You will bring in what you have learned in your 9 years of raising your own family so that when when you enter the classroom and help raise your students, you'll naturally recognize teachable moments, you'll naturally recognize issues that need to be dealt with early on or they'll become worse later, you'll naturally recognize whys to diffuse situations...in all, you'll bring your experiences as a parent to the front of the classroom and throw in content and objective authority. Viola! You're a teacher.

That's not to say, however, that one can't be a good teacher without being a parent. I found that I was a very different teacher BB (before Ben) and AB (after Ben). But as a life-long learner, you're bringing our own experiences, background knowledge, and shared information to the classroom. BB, my students were fascinated that I had once jumped out of an airplane (wouldn't recommend it, by the way). AB, it's stories stories of potty training and how it relates to persuasive writing.

Good luck. It's OK to be nervous. But throw some excitement in there as well!
-Heather WG

alice ramirez's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

It's imperative that teachers who are digital immigrants (myself included) move toward gaining technology-related skills. These new generations are digital natives and it's critical that we keep abreast with technology. If we fail to respond appropriately, we will as a nation fall behind with technology and the rest of the world will move ahead. We must wake up and not allow this to happen. Teaching is truly a lifelong passion. It must be if we are to be successful educators.

Letatia 's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I would agree that good teachers continue to be students. As a student you are willing to learn from others as well as give feedback to others. We live in a society that is ever changing, therefore it is imperative that as an educators we embrance flexibility and an eagerness to grow.

June Bugg's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

How can you be an effective teacher if you are not a lifelong learner? It's what it's about.

Sudhir Sinha's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I really appreciate the noble thoughts of people who have expressed their views here.

When a man by the name of Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon the world said "It's a step of a man but leap for the mankind." Behind that epoch space mission were thousands of scientists who put in millions of man hours doing billions of number crunching calculations. Behind all this was the simple class teacher who taught these scientists the basics of maths, physics and chemistry. So it's the teachers who made this mankind take that great leap! I salute the teachers for it is they who have moved humanity from the caves to the skyscrapers.

Yvonne's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am happy to view myself as a lifelong learner. I am always curious about new things and research a lot. I like the quote,"You learn something new everyday" and this statement is true.(whether what you learn is on purpose or accidental)

Melissa....don't get discouraged. I also am looking for a permanent placement, but have a lot of experience in surrounding school districts. The more you're in the classrooms, the more information you will start remembering. I think all novice teachers are scared, nervous, etc... I know I went nuts before my long-term placements in 3rd, Kindergarten summer school, and Pre-K. I think it gets better over time and with experience.

Yvonne's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi Tim,
Just read your comment and wanted to say I'm also getting my masters through Walden right now. (Elementary Reading and Literacy). Good luck in your program.

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