by Bryan Morrison
Every year when the final bell rings, students cry and teachers cry, but those tears eventually stop. Students spend the summer playing outside and learning life lessons, while teachers usually reflect on our teaching practices from the recent school year. Reflecting on our teaching is crucial to becoming better teachers. This year I will not reflect as long on being a fourth grade teacher because I am looping with my class to fifth grade. This summer I reflect on why I teach and I ask that you follow along through my journey of self-reflection.
Reason #1 for Why I Teach: Ms. Holston
Ms. Paula Holston was my second grade teacher at Stonestreet Elementary in Louisville, Kentucky. I do not remember an individual lesson that she taught me that year, but I do remember how she made me feel. I remember that she made us feel that we were special and could accomplish anything we put our minds to. She was the first and only teacher that I ever accidentally called “mom” because I always wanted to make her proud. Do you have that special teacher in your life? Have you ever told them how important they were to you? This year many JCPS teachers completed the Sevenzo #gratitudechallenge and it allowed us to let others know that we as a classroom/community valued them. I challenge you to email, tweet, blog about, or call the person that showed you that school was more than just worksheets and tests.
Reason #2 for Why I Teach: Making an Impact
“This is the value of the teacher, who looks at a face and says there’s something behind that and I want to reach that person, I want to influence that person, I want to encourage that person, I want to enrich, I want to call out that person who is behind that face, behind that color, behind that language, behind that tradition, behind that culture. I believe you can do it. I know what was done for me.” -Maya Angelou
Every day students come into our classrooms with an eagerness to learn something new. They want to learn more than just how to read or how to subtract. They want to learn about topics they never knew existed. Teachers have the opportunity to shape the future while learning from our past. I once believed the goal of a teacher was to instill in all students the belief that college was the way we determine success. For my students, I want them to feel safe and have a positive role model that they may be lacking. Attending soccer games on hot muggy mornings, even though I strongly dislike the sport, because a student asked me to is one way I show my students that they are more than a test score. Have you made an impact on a student’s life? Be sure to share below.
Reason #3 for Why I Teach: New Challenges
Teaching is an amazing job where every day is different. Sometimes the students challenge us with questions, behavior, or differentiated lessons. Sometimes the community challenges us by saying we are nothing more than babysitters that have the summers off. Sometimes we challenge each other to do things we never thought were possible. Sometimes we even challenge ourselves to become better than we were the day before. I challenged myself this summer to find a way to make my transition from fourth grade to fifth grade the best transition ever. The first opportunity I discovered was making my lessons even more engaging by using “Deck Toys.”
With the craze of BreakoutEdu sweeping the nation, Deck Toys has brought the same code cracking ability digitally. Deck Toys is all about making a digital map that students have to travel, while cracking codes that align with academic standards. The website is currently free, but there is mentions that they may charge some fees at future dates for some features. I currently rate myself as Apprentice, but after spending about 15 minutes I was able to create a “Welcome Back” scavenger map, with plenty of choices. These choices included have an alphabet lock, numerical locks, matching activities or even just a jigsaw puzzle. When developing your map you are able to give students options on taking different pathways for the lesson.
Reason #4 for Why I Teach: Continue to Grow
The community believes teachers sit around and get a 3 month paid vacation during the best part of the year. What they don’t know is we usually use this time to grow and learn to become better teachers. We attend professional developments, lesson plan, attend conferences and even spend the majority of the time reading books to become better. During the school year, there is no way I have enough time to read a book because of teaching, coaching and helping raise my amazing daughter.
I challenge you to join at least one Twitter chat this summer and follow one author/presenter that challenges you to become an even stronger educator.
Reason #5 for Why I Teach: Pizza & Turkey
There are varying professions where you can get a 12 square inch rectangular pepperoni pizza that almost always tastes amazing. In my twelve years as a teacher, there have been attempts to change this rectangular wonder into a circle, but those circles don’t compare. The second best lunch is the Thanksgiving lunch served in the lunchroom. I usually don’t have a preference for turkey, but the lunchroom magicians make this magical turkey, gravy, stuffing and mashed potatoes once a year. If you have not had an elementary school Thanksgiving lunch I highly recommend to try it at least once. Do you have a favorite lunchroom meal?
Reason #6 for Why I Teach: Performing and Humor
Have you ever had to make 28 hormonal ten-year-old adults sit for 30 minutes and try to teach them why anything times zero is zero? How about teaching them that glue sticks are not food, that you don’t run with scissors and that you should not try and hold your breath until you faint? Every day we walk into a room full of knowledge-thirsty vampires that don’t even know they want to learn something new. Teaching elementary school is similar to an organized improv comedy show. You use your audience’s feedback to determine if they are learning and if they are not engaged they will fall asleep sitting up. In many schools, art and music education are taken for granted and are the first to be removed due to budget cuts. In my classroom, we play the bongos to celebrate, or to create a rhythm when learning new vocabulary. In a 2006 article, Randall Garner stated that humor in the classroom needed to follow THREE criteria: must enhance teaching, be specific to what students are learning and be appropriate for the audience. Otherwise, we risk the credibility with our students that leads them to success.
In the end, I ask you, “Why do you teach?” My strength as a teacher comes from my ability to reflect. Each month I ask that you come and reflect with me. Some months the topics may be difficult to swallow, but all that I ask is to let me be your guide through your self-reflection.
Garner LA. Humor in Pedagogy: How Haha Can Lead to Aha!. College Teaching. 2006