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"A Teacher's Life" by Joan Stephens Griffin

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Teaching? Who Would Choose to Do That?

Is becoming a teacher a choice or a calling? Mr. Daniel Webster defines choice as the act of selecting options. He defines calling as an inner urging toward some profession, occupation, or vocation. While these two definitions share similarities, the one difference is that a calling is from an inner urging. Rather than just making a choice there is something inside a person that prompts them to listen to that urging.

I believe that when one decides to become a teacher, that person must first have a love for children. This does not imply that we must like the children, but to become a successful teacher the love has to be in place. Every future teacher must have the desire to help every student in his or her classes to feel that have achieved something in that class. Helping students learn to learn is not an easy task. This is where the love comes into play. Teachers should never give up on any student regardless of the circumstances.

perform on standardized tests, I still believe with all my heart when a teacher helps his/her students learn, that is what being a teacher is all about. A teacher must show excitement, creativeness, and innovativeness each day in the classroom. I believe that if the people on the State School Boards would reconsider the concept of standardized tests and look at how well a student does in the classroom for an entire school term, they would have a different opinion about requiring standardized tests. I have had students in my classes who made all A’s, B’s, or C’s who were so frightened by the standardized test. There are more students with text anxiety of whom educators are not even aware.

Anyone who has the opinion that teaching is easy should follow in a real teacher’s footsteps for one day. I once had a student tell me that his father said to him, “Anyone can be a teacher because all they do is sit around, make the children behave, and they never do any real work.”

I realized then that I had my work cut out for me with this student to help him see that all teachers did not fall into that category. I wanted him to leave my classroom at the end of that school term learning as much as he could and knowing how hard I had worked to help him learn.

After years of study and learning, a teacher should have a desire to share what he/she has learned with their students. I would have been bored to tears if I thought I had to sit in a classroom all day and not help students learn. I found early in my teaching career that I could also learn a lot from my students if I took the time to listen to what they were saying, how they were saying it, and how they would react to my responses. Having respect for each other is most important when certain issues are discussed. Demonstrating respect is not always easy especially when you do not agree with what a student is saying. Learning to demonstrate and show students how to respond when people have different opinions from theirs is not as easy task, but as the old proverb tells us, “Practice makes perfect.” Allowing students to express themselves without being ridiculed or rejected is an important teacher/student skill.

Humor is also an essential character trait that a teacher must possess. Learning to laugh at oneself is one of the most important things a teacher can do. It allows

your students to see you as an actual human being. I never realized that students have this kind of supernatural opinion of teachers. I saw one of my students in the grocery store one afternoon, and the next day he was telling the other students he had seen me burying groceries. They all seemed to be amazed that this was a chore every teacher had to do. I was actually surprised at this concept from them. When I would say something wrong or call a student by the wrong name, I would always laugh and say, “Oh well, that was my human mistake for the day.” Learning to laugh with someone rather than at someone is so important for teachers to learn and share with their students.

The duties of a teacher far exceed the expected classroom skills. A teacher also has to have the ability to deal with many situations that occur and to remember were we called or did we choose?

There was a young teacher on my team, and she asked me one day why I hugged my students. I did not know quite how to answer that question, but I told her that when a student came to me and needed a hug, I had to give one. She then told me that she was not a “hugger”, and could she send her students to me if they needed a hug. I immediately said yes, so I would have students come into my class many time during the day and whisper, “I need a hug.” I would hug them, and they would be on their way. I had students speaking to me in the cafeteria, hallways, or gymnasium that I did not even know their names because I had given them hugs.

Everything that happens can be used as a learning experience. What if it is not in your lesson plans for the day? It can still be a valuable learning experience. There are many skeptics out there who would disagree with me I am certain, but when some life experience can help students learn, that is what is important. While emotions and feelings play an important role in a teacher’s life, there are also many other factors that come into play. You never really know what it is going to be like in any classroom until you have been there. I have been of the opinion for several years that instead of having student teachers go into a classroom for one semester to do student teaching, they should be assigned a classroom for an entire school term. This would give them the opportunity to observe as well as teach.

Beginning teachers often feel as if they have been thrown to the wolves because being in charge of a classroom is much different that observing and teaching for maybe one or two days a week as a student teacher.

I have been a teacher support specialist for fifteen years, and I have heard the same stories over and over again from beginning teachers. Many of them quit after the first school term, and some even left during the school term. They definitely need to have more experience in the real school world.

Discipline is a major part of classroom management. It is different for each child. Learning to discern how to discipline individual students can take a lot of time and skill. I always thought I had an advantage with this because of my age and the fact that I also had a child who was in middle school. While this did help in some situations, I came to learn children who are not disciplined at home are the most difficult to discipline at school. Sometimes tough love is the only way to deal with these students, but I felt it was better to give them tough love at this age rather than seeing them go to jail in high school.

I cannot say that I was able to save all of them, but I did rescue a few.

Preparing lessons is a chore. Learning how to teach and do things that will keep your students excited every day is a tremendous challenge. I always tried to remember how I felt in middle school. We would go to class, listen to the teacher for about forty minutes, and then be given an assignment to complete for the following day. While I did have some wonderful teachers who taught me so very much, I also had those teachers who I dreaded going into their classrooms. I did not want to be that kind of teacher. Teaching language arts gave me the opportunity to use English with literature in combined effort.

Parent conferences are also part of teaching. Most parents know or should know more about their children than teachers. They love and care about their children, and teachers should remember this when having a conference. I always told the parents I met with that I would not believe everything they said about them if they would not believe everything they said about me. Having a good rapport with parents is one of the best things any teacher should do.

Dealing with administrators can be difficult or easy. In my twenty-six years of teaching I have worked with six different principals. Four of these were males and two were females. They were each very different as they should have been, and each had his/her own way of managing our school. Some I agreed with, and some I did not, but that is the real world.

My three middle grade concentrations were language arts, science, and social studies. I had the privilege to teach average students for eight years, and then I was assigned gifted and talented students for twenty-four years. My last two years of teaching I taught creative writing to sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students.

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I have given a brief introduction to my twenty-six years of teaching and these are the topics I will be discussing in the following chapters. I know I was a good teacher, and I know that I gave my very best. Was it always easy? Were students always kind and respectful? Were colleagues always helpful? Were administrators always understanding and supportive? Those of you who have been educators probably know the answers to these questions as well as I do, but you continue to help students learn because they are what a teacher’s life is all about.