My mother had a wonderful rationale for education: It is the one thing that you can do for yourself that nobody can take away from you. Neither of my parents is highly educated; in fact, I remember hearing stories about how Dad would not have graduated from high school if Mom hadn’t helped him. My mother went to nursing school when I was five, and my father attended the local community college twenty years later.
I was nineteen when I told my parents that I wanted to be a teacher, and my mother was supportive; however, my father was not—initially. I think that he actually said something like, “I’m not spending all of this money so that you can make less money than I do.” I was a little discouraged, but I got over it. I believed what my mother told me about education.
When I’m feeling a little stagnant or like I’m spending too much time “doing” for others, I choose to learn something—something for myself. I started graduate school after my first son was a year old. One-year-olds will most likely cause any mother to desire something for herself. I was actually “giddy” about my weekly commute to UNC Charlotte. I was simply happy to be working toward a goal that was mine.
After many years of teaching within the same four walls, I needed to work toward a new goal. I decided to focus on self-reflection and learn abut myself. Through the onerous task of deciphering the National Boards for Professional Teaching Standards, I was forced to reflect on my instruction, collaboration, leadership, and my role as a learner in the field of education. Even though I learned that I look ridiculous teaching while chewing gum, and I now sound like I have a slight Southern accent, I realized that I feel good about what I do. I don’t just teach students how to understand, apply, and analyze (or any other level of Bloom’s taxonomy). Instead, I guide them in their learning about themselves and where they stand in the world today.
Mark Twain once said something about not letting his schooling interfere with his education. I’d like to think of school as only one venue for education. Yes, my students need to learn how to stay on task for ninety minutes, how to write an effective paragraph, and even how to diagram the occasional sentence; yet, education is so much more. If my students leave my class at the end of each semester learning that they can learn from reading what others have to say, that they are capable of success, and that Anakin Skywalker really is an Aristotelian tragic hero, I’ve done my job. No one can take that knowledge away from them. It is theirs for the keeping.
I’m currently trying to learn something a little different—something non academic. At thirty-five, I’m going to learn to play the guitar, and I’m going to love every finger-picking minute of it.
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