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What I Love About Teaching

| Heather Wolpert-G...

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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Comments (111)

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Heather WolpertGawron (not verified)

finding your niche

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The good news is that a great administrator will know when they have a good thing going, and will generally allow you to stay at the level you are doing the best in. But sometimes they also get in a jam and will ask you with a multiple-subject credential to go from 2nd grade to 5th grade, a huge developmental jump. Try to make sure, however, that you have enough broad experience and credential-clout to allow yourself flexibility in the job market or when a school must downsize. Remember, the ability to be flexible is a skill too, and allows us to be less expendable. Thanks for the comment!
-Heather WG

HeatherWolpertGawron (not verified)

Don't worry

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Great teachers, especially those with ELL or RSP background, are always in need. I will be posting a How to Get a Job in Education that you Love article soon, so come on back. In the meantime, start getting your applications together so that you aren't taken off guard. Remember, you are interviewing as much as they are interviewing you. So if you get the sense that your position is coming to an end, start searching now. It's a sign that you are smart about job hunting, not the bottom of the barrel, and it will give you time to find that job that really "gets" you. My 8 steps to Job Hunting will be available soon. Until then, good luck and keep in touch.
-Heather WG

Jennifer (not verified)

Oops

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Can you tell I am a first time "blogger"! Sorry for the duplicate messages.

Heather WolpertGawron (not verified)

VLCs

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I'm not sure of your content area, but I would start by going to ning and type in your content area. If you teach ELA, try Jim Burke's English Companion. It's a living, breathing community already and it caters to any level of involvement. Also, there's Twitter, if you only have time for sound bites. VLCs, I think, are the future of professional development. You come home, the kids have beaten you down, or the staff meeting has beaten you down, or the district or the media or a parent (this list goes on). You bust open the computer and there they are: the supportive staff of your dreams, teaching YOU, propping YOU up with new strategies to try or new conversations to have. Spend your time "lurking". (I hate that term, by the way, but it's the term for someone that reads without commenting.) No worries, you're participating in the way that you get the most out of. You'll throw your hat in the ring when you're good and ready. Or, do what I did with some of my VLCs and just start talkin! I'll give some more thought about others to try out. In the meantime, do what you did with Edutopia. Because if there's enough blogging and commenting and responding, lo and behold, you have a VLC.
Good luck in your search,
Heather WG

Lisa Little (not verified)

Thanks Heather for posting

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Thanks Heather for posting Larry Ferlazzo's website! Looks like it will be a great resource!

Lisa Little (not verified)

Thank You Heather for your

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Thank You Heather for your words of wisdom! I am only working part-time and I am at an elementary school. I have small groups of students (6-8) in grades K-2- so like you said, I am able to get to know the students on a more personal level. Due to the budget cuts, I am not sure I will have this position next year!

Jennifer (not verified)

Heather - I have appreciated

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Heather -
I have appreciated the comments included in this blog. There is no doubt that professional development is a critical component to continued growth - regardless of the number of years you have been teaching. However, funding and time are issues for most school systems. You mentioned a virtual learning community. I am not familiar with any - can you give me any suggestions? I am a secondary educator in a suburban setting. I appreciate your guidance.
Thanks
Jennifer

Jennifer (not verified)

Heather and others: I've

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Heather and others:
I've enjoyed reading the comments included in this blog! Meaningful, professional development is so critical! Yet I realize that time and funding is often a huge obstacle to overcome. You mentioned virtual learning communities - can you suggest some? I am a secondary teacher in a suburban school setting.
Thanks!
Jennifer

Maureen Lewis (not verified)

k-12

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Heather,
I so agree with your statement on finding "your" grade level. As a special educator my license is for grades k-12. I taught preschool for 15 years before going back for my special education degree. I loved teaching preschool but as my own children grew older I grew tired of the dependency of the children and longed to teach children who could do some things on their own. I have found "my cup of tea" is at least 2nd graders up. I feel me teaching younger children is probably a dis-service the them. I agree that once a teacher finds their "niche" they should stay and not hop around. Now let's convince the administration.

HeatherWolpertGawron (not verified)

Great comment, Justin!

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What a well-written comment! I love your coach's thoughts. Maybe had my softball coach been that prolific, I would have stuck with it longer. (shrug) Then again, I was more of a theater geek anyway. Anyway, it's true. And teachers who are not as frightened of change must model that fearlessness not only for students, but sometimes for other teachers as well. Stagnancy is common in our profession, but it is the teachers who understand this concept of evolving with each class, that will never find themselves saying, "Kids these days!" Teaching as a profession needs to evolve in order to do our job properly, which is why we must fight for funding that allows this to occur. It can't come out of our pockets because we know what's best, we must insist on professionalism from those power that be who provide us with the ongoing training that gives us the ability to teach. Being a Florence Nightengale is lovely but unprofessional. We need to stand up and insist that evolving is a part of our preparedness. (I'll get off my soap-box now). Thanks for the comment, and check back again with Edutopia.
-Heather

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Heather Wolpert-Gawron Middle School teacher by day, Tweenteacher by night

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