I was recently interviewed for a magazine article on Top Teachers in Fort Worth. The questions posed to me seemed simple and straight forward on the surface, yet when I begin to answer each item – I realized, I was being asked to hone in on my educational philosophy! I, being a paralyzed-prone perfectionist, couldn’t keep it simple of course, but rather had to whittle down buckets full of thoughts, ideas, assertions, experiences, and ponderings. Augh! I ended up writing way too much, I fear, and I worry I ended up sounding like a prim and preachy middle-aged teacher. However, the process caused me to focus attention on those obvious things that I do well, but know I can do better! My successes from previous years are truly my springboards to offering my students this coming school year the very best opportunities I can provide. Fixing the “failures” in past messy attempts to shift forward into 21st Century skills affords me the chance to welcome my new students with a fresh canvas of learning. My responses actually ended up being a roadmap of goals for the next school year. I would suggest that we “interview” ourselves regularly, in order to keep our vision simply fresh and clear!
Here are a few of the questions and responses asked of me. Perhaps you will discover similarities in the experiences and joys of our fabulous profession?
Simply put… J
Why do you teach?
I hope my educational footprints today will help impact the world of tomorrow. I strive to provide real-world learning opportunities to engage students in becoming visionary thinkers, problem solvers, and respectful citizens, while broadening their local and global views. Students need to interact and learn with the world, not simply learn about the world. Hopefully, these students will develop into adults who connect and collaborate in order to become positive agents of change: competent, responsible global citizens who are life-long learners.
What is the most rewarding part about teaching?
Watching the eyes of students dance and sparkle, while listening to deafening silence – or the loud interaction – in the room when students are totally engaged: invigorating! Student questions leading to a deeper inquiry into topics; creative and innovative approaches offered by students; witnessing those “Aha!” connections: inspiring! Learning about successful and positive paths of former students, or hearing families and students reflect that I was a memorable and important part of their lives: priceless!
What is the most challenging thing about teaching in today’s world?
Teaching core content along with critical thinking, problem solving skills, and responsible citizenship – within the framework of 21st Century learning – requires a teacher to stay current on research and alter pedagogy when warranted. Expanding and reframing the role of a traditional instructor into that of a facilitator for student-based learning has been a growing experience. Ensuring that every teachable moment builds independent skills for real world application is essential.
What is your greatest frustration as a teacher?
Time! An educator needs to develop a balanced blend of solid academics with authentic lessons of value and substance. Integrating foundational skills with evolving digital literacy skills requires programmatic and logistical shifts. I am blessed to be part of a school deeply committed to the development of global and digital competencies for students and faculty alike. Through a generous grant program at TVS, I recently was able to study at the American School in London’s 21st Century Educators Summer Institute, travel to Cambridge and Edinburgh to meet with world-renown curators at museums and libraries, and participate with fellow instructors at the Global Educators Conference in California. With a wealth of experiences and resources, I dream for more time to plan, implement, and share!
Are today’s students different from yesteryear’s students? If so, how?
Students continue to present an eagerness to learn, along with the same emotional needs for guidance, nurturing, and validation, as did students from the past. Young children still love to gather around my rocking chair as I read to them, and many time-honored instructional strategies continue to keep their interests piqued. However, students today are far more sophisticated with respect to social, media, and technological experiences, and they need to develop more critical thinking and collaborative skills. With overbooked lifestyles and an increasing world connectedness, it is essential to address character development, universal values, and corporate obligations for citizens. Responsible social and digital citizenship is emerging as an educational priority.
What do you do when you aren’t teaching?
I enjoy traveling both within the United States and around the world. Cooking, baking, gardening, reading, music, and soon “grandmother-ing” are additional pursuits when I’m not teaching. And yes, I often devote free time to professional development opportunities. We need to model the concepts of global citizens and life-long, Renaissance learners ourselves!