I believe that, as a high school teacher and coach, I can make a difference. The definition of difference, according to Dictionary.com, is a significant change in or effect on a situation. Fortunate is how I would describe my feelings about my new career in education. The position of working with youth, on a daily basis, is powerful. Note that there is a difference in saying that it is a powerful position and using it as a position of power.
I am proud to proclaim that this wonderful nation, in which we live, has a representative democracy. Our basis for which public education was founded in the United States was to ensure that our citizens possessed enough knowledge to contribute, as informed citizens, in the democratic process. Our form of government can only succeed to the fullest, if it has citizens that comprehend the importance of their participation. Why then, do we not model democracy in all of our classrooms?
We are so accustomed to teachers having complete control of every aspect of the classroom. Someone observing might think that we have a dictatorship. I can recall hardly ever being involved in anything in school except note taking and regurgitation of the information, either on a quiz, or on a test. I had no idea why it was important to learn most of the material that teachers covered. I just knew that in order to pass it must be done. What was (is) missing? The relevance of the material was never explained. I had no personal connections with the content. There was no context in which to place the material for comprehension. I never understood the big picture. Twenty-five years ago that style of teaching may have been more acceptable. Today, there is no excuse for having a classroom that is teacher-centered.
I believe in order to truly make a difference we must teach in a different manner than what most of us were taught. Connections with our students are crucial. We must learn everything that we possibly can about our students. If we invest that much time and effort into each of our students they will be more apt to know that in this class they matter. Allowing our students to have a role in developing class guidelines and procedures is a perfect example of modeling a democracy. When students have a role in the creation of rules or procedures they will be more likely to follow them. The reason for this is that they have a better understanding of the relevance of the rules due to the fact that they were involved in the process of developing them.
That definition of difference, which was previously mentioned, also lends itself to another type situation that evokes change. Our students are in dire need of positive role models. The majority of these students are boys with no male role models in their lives. I believe that being a mentor is an underwritten responsibility that accompanies this powerful position of being a teacher. I know for a fact that mentors can make a difference. One of the greatest feelings that I have ever known was when my mentee, an eighteen year-old male, informed me that I was his hero. He also let me know that if he ever met his Dad he hoped he would be just like me. I am proud to say that he overcame an array of obstacles to graduate this past May.
I believe that time is the main concern of most teachers. If education is life, then we all need to slow down because we are living it way too fast. In the words of my current graduate professor, “We must let go and trust the process.” My occupational experience of ten years as a machinist, in the manufacturing industry, has given me a different take on teaching. This seems to be one of the reasons that I am not afraid to try new educational strategies in my classroom. I would consider that as one of my strengths as a teacher. I believe five years ago I probably would have thought that you were insane, if you would have told me that at the end of this month I would earn my Master of Arts Degree in Teaching.
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