Somewhere in my 13 years of teaching, I crossed over the hump of being a new teacher to becoming a veteran teacher. I’m not exactly sure when this happened, as each year still feels new and adventurous to me. But as a teacher of more than a decade, I’ve watched how decisions made by others outside the classroom affect my students. Not all of those decisions have ruffled my feathers; many of them have been very positive and have enhanced my instruction and student learning. I’d like to think that I haven’t developed that jaded look I saw in the veteran teachers that helped ease me into the profession. I try always to stay open-minded, thoughtful, and listening. But, sometimes I catch myself. You can help by joining in the dialogue. I hope you do.
Apart from a three-year stint of teaching first graders, I mostly teach the intermediate grades in elementary. Right now, I teach 5th graders in SeaTac, Washington. I came into teaching after being an exchange student in South Africa during Apartheid. At the time I was a senior in high school, applying to colleges and universities, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I thought I wanted to get a degree in international relations and become an important diplomat or, maybe even an ambassador. But, living there for a year made me realize that change starts with your community. I figured that I was not particularly special, or different from anyone else, and if I had grown up in a white South African family, my ideas about racial segregation would mimic theirs. My "enlightened" ideas were merely the result of my environment -my upbringing and my education. This realization led me to think that teachers are very influential people, and if we want to help make our world a better place, we need good teachers.
I didn’t go right into education; this realization took some time and some suggesting from my then boyfriend, now husband of 18 years. He knew I should become a teacher long before I did. In college I double-majored in history and political science from the UW and earned my masters in teaching from Seattle University. I stayed in school as long as I could. I told people that it was because I looked young -- when volunteering in an elementary school, I got yelled at by a teacher who thought I was in middle school. I used that as an excuse to stay in school longer before entering the classroom. But, the truth is, I just loved school and loved learning. What I didn’t know was how much that would follow me into the classroom.
Adventure and learning are what keep me inspired as a classroom teacher. Each new class of students brings a new set of challenges and discoveries. Together, we explore the world around us. The marvelous thing about exploring the world from our classroom is that it never looks the same. Each year, with different eyes and different experiences, the content always winds up being different.
My posts to this blog will most likely reflect this deep-held belief of mine that students have to care about what they are learning. They have to feel an eagerness to discover. While learning basics skills is a positive and necessary outcome, my hope is for it to happen serendipitously on the search for something big and meaningful- something that will keep my students hungry for more. If I can do that, I’ll be doing my job.