Why did you go into teaching, or why are you thinking about going into teaching?
I’ve struggled with answering this question since committing myself many years ago to a teaching program. Honestly, I still struggle with them. After all, an undiagnosed dyslexic that struggles with comma usage and grammatical rules doesn’t even sound like a good English teacher. I can admit that, however, English is a means of communicating and teaching students about everything encompassing life’s experiences. English is not limited by the ability to memorize rules, and spell every last word correctly.
I suppose my answer would be two-fold. First, I love teaching, if it training a dog to sit, a soldier to assemble and disassemble a M-4 carbine, or teaching student to express themselves through writing – I love it. Second, At a fairly young age I realized that I would not change the world be being a great singer, soldier, or philanthropist (I’ll never make enough money for that) so the best way to measure my life would be to pass it along piece by piece for my students to carry with them for the rest of their lives. I cannot remember a single activity or spelling lesson that had a positive influence on my life, but I can recall the teachers that helped me succeed and the values passed along by them. I could only hope that my students will remember that much about me in twenty years.
The best way to accomplish any task is to set goals. As a teacher we must set personal goals and goals for our students to achieve. In order to help our students to meeting the goals we must both identify them to our students and we must provide motivation for them. LouAnne Johnson does both on the first day of class:
Here is what I really want you to learn: I want you to be able to analyze other people’s ideas, compare different ideas, and express you own ideas in an intelligent and articulate way. The more command you have over your language skills, the more successful you will be in school, in your work, and in your personal life — especially your love life (Johnson, 100).
Every comment we make to our students forms how we will be remembered in twenty years. We do not have to be serious every second, we do not have to cram curriculum into them. We must be ope and honest with them. We must hold them to high standards and push them to the goals we create while keeping in their trust.
LouAnne Johnson dedicates an entire chapter to 20 Years Later where she shares letters that express the horrors and joys of past teachers. With some hard work, and luck, maybe one of my students will write well of me 20 years from now.