Teacher—at first glance, it appears to be a rather ordinary word. Yet, for me, teacher evokes the extraordinary passion I have for my profession. The future is continually formed within the teacher’s classroom, and it is part of my philosophy, my mission, to ensure that future is bright. I recently talked with a former student who is now a middle school social studies teacher, and he gave me a compliment every teacher thirsts to hear. Of all the classes he had in school, both secondary and post-secondary, he told me he learned the most in my class. I was stunned where I stood—to be given such a compliment is incredible, magnificent! It is doubtful the specific content he learned evoked such sentiment, but rather the passion I have for what I do and my dedication to make learning relevant—the vital component to a student’s lifelong learning success—is more likely the crucial instigator for such a compliment.
Students learn by doing: by getting their hands dirty, literally or figuratively, making mistakes, and figuring out solutions to theirs and others’ problems. For too long has the textbook been held as the sole tool for teachers. For too long have subjects been taught in isolation—students must experience a new concept and the realities of that concept before it can be solidified in their knowledge. They must continually practice and refine their skills to be able to retain them. Students must also be entrusted with the knowledge that they CAN think for themselves, and they WILL if that is expected of them, ensuring lifelong learning. Encouragement from their teacher—from me—is sometimes the only fuel needed to kindle that fire.
Our students expect us to be knowledgeable and rightly so, but they deserve teachers to be so much more than educated in their areas of expertise. They deserve the kind of educator who is dedicated to the profession, who inspires and works for the success of each student, and this is a difficult task to manage alone. By working together as an educational community, learning from the experiences of a teacher next door or a teacher across the nation, by transforming the information in our textbooks to relevant subjects of study for our students, we can improve our methodology and delivery; we can reach the student whom we may have otherwise thought impossible to reach.
The opportunity to influence the lives of my students is one I anticipate each day. My students comment that I am always smiling—and they are right! They thrive on the joy and passion I have for what I do; positivity is indeed infectious. I cherish my students, each and every one of them. Sure, they can be cranky and tired or hyper and distracted, but each is a special, unique individual and deserves to be taught, appreciated and respected. School may be the only place where a student can enjoy having these basic needs met. Regardless of the situations and environments of my students outside of school, inside my classroom all students have the right to expand their minds in ways that work for them with the knowledge there is at least one person in the world who believes in them wholeheartedly—me. Doing right by my students—past, present and future—is the extraordinary mission of my life, a mission that empowers my passion and purpose as a teacher.