Teaching: My Career of Choice
Megan Lewis EDPR 285 Orientation to Teaching Keith Leavitt December 5, 2012
Teaching: My Career of Choice “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” -
William Arthur Ward
As a little girl, around the age of five or six, I could usually be found in my room making my dolls, stuffed animals and sometimes even my poor little sister, sit though hours of my make believe school. I had a small easel that was meant for painting, but I found that using it as my chalk board to teach was a much better idea. I would teach my patient little stuffed animals and dolls to do simple math equations, recite the alphabet and count as high as I could count. This was my happy place - where I felt like I could take over the world and do anything I set my mind to. As I got older, I helped in my church’s nursery taking care of the little ones. Those Sunday mornings in the nursery helped me to realize that I loved working with children. Even though I was only a child myself, I knew that helping to care for and nurture those younger than me was where I felt the most at ease. Growing up I was always hearing my parents and extended family tell me how wonderful I was with children and how they just knew I would follow in my father’s footsteps and become a teacher. As I started my junior and senior high school years, I fought against the idea of becoming a teacher, determined to create my own path in life. I hated the idea of people thinking I wanted to be a teacher only because that is what my father did. I always wanted to stand out and do things my own way.
My life started to unravel when I was in grade nine when my best friend and her family moved three hours away, my parents divorced and my sister struggled with a mental illness. I started to lose all interest in school. Over the next two years I turned to destructive relationships and unhealthy behaviors that drew my attention even further away from my school work. It wasn’t until grade twelve that that I took a step back and realized that I was lucky to be in an alternative outreach school full of staff who genuinely cared about me. They believed I could graduate with marks that would allow me to pursue post-secondary education. I started to realize, with the help of my dad, who also happened to be the principal of my school, that I needed to help his staff help me. He gave me a piece of advice that stays with me every single day as I continue in my education. He told me at the time, “You need to be in control of your own learning. We want you to get an education, and we want to give it to you, but you need to be the one to take it.” I started to reflect on his idea - me being the one in control of my own learning - I started to listen a little bit better, study a little bit harder and care a little bit more about the quality of work I turned in. With the help and support of my family and the teachers at my school, I graduated grade twelve with marks of which I could be proud. This was one of the first times, since being a little girl teaching my teddy bears in my room, that I thought, “Maybe I could be the teacher who gives a lost student the nudge to get back on the right path.” While I was dragging my feet through my high school years, I was also working at the local swimming pool as a lifeguard and swimming instructor. At the time I viewed my work as a meaningless job that would give me a little bit of money to spend and help me achieve my goal of travelling to Australia after I graduated. And at the time, perhaps that’s exactly what it was. However, looking back on it now, I realize that my after school and weekend shifts at the pool were so much more than that. I have now been working at the same job for four and a half years
and I believe it has taught me some of my most valuable lessons, which I know will help me succeed in my teaching career. A lifeguard is responsible for keeping people safe and out of harm’s way while they have fun. This means that as a lifeguard I needed to learn to take an authoritative stance sometimes, to ensure patrons follow my leadership and rules. I believe teachers must possess a sense of authority and leadership in their classroom. However, the most direct link from my current job to my future career is my experience as a swimming instructor. As an instructor I learned the importance of making and following lessons plans, yet appreciating, that sometimes, those plans will need to be forgotten mid class to allow for the greatest learning opportunity. I learned that different age groups respond differently to certain teaching approaches I may take, and that within those “rules” there are always “exceptions”. I learned the value of being prepared and knowing exactly what I want to teach and how I want to teach it. I learned how crucial it is to always have my students focused, to avoid chaos during class time. And most importantly, I learned how amazing it is to be able to help a child, not only do, but master, a skill that they did not previously possess. For me, there is no better feeling than to see a child smile the biggest smile because he or she can now do something that they were unable to do before they were in my class. Right around the same time in grade twelve that I had the thought of being able to be the teacher that helps a wayward student get back on track, I started paying more attention to the wonderful feeling I got when I helped a child accomplish his or her goals in the swimming pool. This was the second realization that helped affirm my decision to pursue a teaching career. After working and travelling for two years, I decided I needed to go back to school. I was pretty sure that I knew I wanted to be a teacher, most likely an elementary teacher. However, I did not realize exactly what I wanted my teaching career to look like, until several weeks ago.
Looking back and reflecting on this semester, I have realized that there were so many questions I didn’t even know I had, that have now been answered. Questions like: Is this really what I want to do with the rest of my life? Would I actually be any good at it? Who do I really want to teach? What will being in the classroom feel like? All these questions were answered by a combination of two things. First of all, taking the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator helped me to feel more confident in myself, and helped me to realize that yes, I will be good at this, and this is what I should do with the rest of my life. The second experience that I was able to have this semester that helped me to answer all these big questions, was completing classroom observations hours. Being in a variety of different classrooms, observing and working with different age groups and having the pleasure of working with different cooperating teachers was the most valuable tool to help me narrow down my future career. Exploring the results of my MBTI test results encouraged me to really consider not only the strengths I will bring to the teaching profession but the possible weaknesses as well, and what I can do to counterbalance them. Grutter & Hammer (2012) describe my type results as “Extraversion, iNtuition, Feeling and Judging.” This, in short, concludes that I am a social person, who likes helping and instructing. Furthermore, ENFJ is described as enjoying using their creativity to make a difference in people’s lives. Personally I translate this into being able to use unconventional teaching methods to help students that struggle in conventional classrooms. This in my eyes, is a strength I would bring into the teaching profession. However, Grutter & Hammer (2012) also describe my personality type as one that “enjoys close, personal connections with others.” I see this as possibly being a weakness when teaching. Yes it is very important to be invested in your students and make connections with them, but I know that I am the kind of person that wants to be friends with everyone. I know that this will be a struggle for
me because as The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) posted, “becoming too personally involved with students - friend, confident, surrogate parent [falls under inappropriate behaviour].” As I progress in my post-secondary education and continue on to having my own classroom I will need to make sure my boundaries are in place and be aware that I am there to teach, not to be friends with everyone. As I mentioned above, doing the thirty hours of classroom observation allowed me to answer a lot of questions I had previously had. I learned that I do have what it takes to teach, I feel comfortable and confident in a classroom. I learned that there are many different teaching styles and they can all be effective. And, perhaps the most valuable lesson, I learned that my greatest area of interest is not actually in a lower elementary classroom, but instead in a junior high classroom. Having the opportunity to be in a junior high setting made me realize that I have a special place in my heart for that age group of students. I feel like those challenging years of adolescence is where I can make my greatest impact as a teacher. The cooperating teachers that I got to work with were all extremely supportive in my decision to go after a teaching career and made it clear to me that they saw the “special something” that a great teacher needs to have, in me. This meant a lot and played a great role in affirming my career choice. To me teaching is about so much more than presenting a set of information in a way that students can learn it. Teaching is about going above and beyond to make a difference in students’ lives. “Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.” (Palmer 1997) When a teacher has a solid grasp on their identity both in and out of the classroom the students pick up on that, and as any good teacher would hope, the students can start to translate that into their own lives – the idea of having a strong identity and personality.
Because of the path I have been down, I have come to be able to say, with confidence; I will be a wonderful teacher. I truly believe this for several reasons. I am starting to see, even as I am writing this paper, that my life has been practice and training for a career in teaching. And as I reflect on and explore the idea of teaching junior high students I realize that that is a perfect fit. My life was not smooth in junior high and it was only thanks to a small handful of teachers that I was able to see the value in my education. I want nothing more than to be able to be that guiding light in my students lives.
Bibliography Grutter, Judith and Hammer, Allen L. “Strong Interest Inventory and Myer-Briggs Type Indicator Career Report” CPP, INC. 24 September 2012. “Understanding Professional Boundaries” Elementary Teachers Foundation of Ontario.
n.p. , n.d. Web. December 5, 2012 Palmer, Parker J. “The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life” San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2007. Book.