I’m about to complete another year of classroom teaching. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly the year goes by and, more important, how I still love what I do.
I must admit that with so many years under my belt, I consider myself quite knowledgeable on the issues of public education today, and I love having the opportunity to share these opinions when I teach my college classes at night.
The bar has certainly been raised for students today, and I think that’s a good thing. Kids enter the classroom with a knowledge bank that is way above what it was when I went to school. Technology alone has given kids an edge that can make the classroom a rather boring place. That’s why it’s important for teachers, especially older ones like me, to brush up on what kids already know and be prepared to teach to these higher standards in an interesting and meaningful way.
However, even after all these years, some things are still true. Good teaching is not all about following standards or knowing how to work all the technology in the classroom. It’s about following your instincts about what’s best for each child. It’s about making connections to kids that make them feel safe, valued and willing to take risks. Great teachers are not necessarily recognized for their expertise in a subject area. Instead, kids will tell you, time after time, that great teachers are the ones who really care about the kids first and love the subjects they teach.
A teacher who is more interested in the curriculum and test scores may have a harder time motivating kids, especially those who are what I call “field sensitive” learners. But the teacher who is more flexible, considers diverse learning styles, and believes that all kids can learn sets a stronger foundation for the standards’ success.
I look back on my younger days in the classroom, and we never had state standards or common assessments, and there wasn’t the articulation among the core and content areas as there is today. But I still hold fast to my core belief that programs and standards don’t make a difference in kids’ lives. Teachers do.