While teaching is a demanding job, it is also the best job in the world! Teaching is a calling because educators help students academically and emotionally; the greatest reward in teaching comes from knowing that I have had a positive impact on a student’s life. Because teaching is integral to student success, supporting great teaching is a priority identified in the new SCORE report, Priorities For Progress: 2018-19 State Of Education In Tennessee.
One of the ways educators do this is by ensuring that students across all grades are provided with excellent instruction and meaningful assignments using strong, aligned instructional materials. We need to continue to build on the work we have done with Tennessee’s rigorous academic standards. It is important that we support teachers, so they know why materials are high quality and how to use them effectively.
A few weeks ago my eighth-grade students analyzed a 1918 article, “Priest and Three Others Tarred By Mob as Disloyal,” a primary source document from the Library of Congress. We examined multiple viewpoints related to the issues of loyalty, national security, dissent, and First Amendment rights to freedom of speech. After students read the article, they brainstormed potential viewpoints related to the story, asking: “Who is involved?”; “Who is affected?”; “Who might have an interest in this story?” After some discussion and opportunity to increase students’ empathy, students rewrote the historical account from the viewpoint they chose. They were challenged to elaborate on the thoughts and feelings of the character they selected. Understanding that people may think and feel differently about things and asking yourself why characters behave the way they do is critical to being an effective reader and writer. In addition to wanting strong materials, teachers want deep professional learning on how to use the materials in order to improve learning outcomes for students.
Another crucial part of ensuring every student has a great teacher is recruiting the best and brightest to a career in education. In my district, we have an annual Top 10% Banquet for high school seniors. Our district gives each student a certificate which promises that if they choose to become a licensed teacher, they are guaranteed a teaching job in our district.
I love the message that this tradition sends to our best and brightest graduating high school students. I have many students who I have taught who are now teachers, and my youngest daughter wants to be a teacher.
One of the best ways we recruit future teachers is by sharing our passion for teaching with our students. Early in my teaching career, in 1998, I taught first grade, and in my classroom was an eager learner named David. Over the years, I kept in touch with David’s family and was delighted when David’s mom shared with me that he wanted to be a teacher. He currently teaches and is the head basketball coach at a nearby high school. Seeing David coaching his basketball team makes me so proud. He clearly motivates his players and knows how to encourage growth.
I am the product of two teachers. My dad was a teacher in the Peace Corps before returning to medical school and becoming an Ophthalmologist. My mom taught and served as a principal. She currently works at a university with pre-service teachers. I grew up knowing I wanted to teach because I always knew that teaching was important and meaningful work. I learned that because I saw the difference my parents made in the lives of their students. I hope Tennessee is a better place because we teachers make a difference to our students; after all, that is what teaching is all about.