Ed note: We’re beginning a new feature–it’s a slow roll-out as we figure the logistics out–called “Teacher Voices.” The idea is what you’d think it might be–to give teachers a voice, let them reflect, and let them connect with other educators to support their goals as educators. This post is in that spirit, but actually comes from our #reflectiveteacher blogging challenge. It comes from Teresa Milligan, a reading and social studies teacher from Minnesota for whom reflection comes naturally, it seems.
Call it my work style, my sign (Libra), or my personality, but I’ve always been a balancer. A middle-grounder. A neutralizer.
I neither excelled nor bombed in the sports and activities I participated in when I was younger. I don’t consider myself exceptionally intelligent, but I know I’m not “unintelligent.” In most areas of my life, I’m competent, but not a master; knowledgeable enough to have the basic idea, but not so much to call myself much of an expert.
Except in teaching.
Teaching is the one area of my world that I feel like every part of me was made for. I am confident in my ability. I’m comfortable saying that I’m good enough to be able to really push my own limits and challenge my skill. I love being able to learn new things and ignite students’ thinking with it (hence the name of the blog). I love how complex it is and – this feels really selfish to say – how it gives me a chance to really take off, be a great example, inspire other teachers, and lead the pack. I say it feels selfish because teaching is supposed to be a selfless, thankless job; I find it to be almost the opposite.
Teaching fits with this balance theme as well, especially where I’m at right now. My current classroom is the perfect platform to give me the freedom I need to exercise my own control and creativity, yet still have a larger objective to work toward and answer to. I can move between independent learning and large-group discussion. Teaching, for me, is the perfect blend of physical movement and focused desk work; working with people and working solo; working with adults and working with students; business and, well, not business.
When I was three years old, I decided I wanted to be a teacher because I wanted to be able to draw on the chalkboard in Sunday School. As I got into elementary school, I made my own grade books, asked for old textbooks, had my mom buy a couple flip-top desks from a garage sale, held “school” on our days off (how exciting to be able to bring my pretend class to music at the actual time I had music in my class!), and gave lessons on the chalkboard for hours.
Now, I’m in a position where my educational background and fire for teaching is in the minority. Most of my co-workers are content specialists, giving up a job in the industry to teach or using teaching as a way to make something of their field. Not many of my fellow faculty members have had much in the way of teacher training, and it’s certainly not on the forefront of their minds.
And so it appears that I have a rather large, although unspoken, opportunity staring me in the face.
There are new balances to strike, and I’m totally in for the challenge.
Why I Teach: Teaching Is The One Thing I Feel Like Every Part Of Me Was Made For; adapted image via flickr user skokinorthshoresculpturepark