The Teacher I Hope to Become: Revisited

Last fall (8/17/2012), as a part of course requirements for EDU6918 (MTMS) at SPU, I wrote a blog post entitled “The Teacher I Hope to Become”.  In this post I would like to reflect on that post, and update my goals, especially in light of my Personal Development Plan, which I have just recently drafted.

When I wrote the original blog post, I was 14 days from my last day at Microsoft.  Those were busy days:  wrapping up one job, looking forward to another, finding a new place to live, and renting out the old place, to name just a few.

However, and despite the hectic atmosphere swirling about that post, it still resonates with me.  Here are the points revisited, revised and revitalized.

“focus on the calling … in the job”

It was wryly pointed out to me at the time that although I posted on how I left Microsoft, I have never really posted on why I left Microsoft.  [There is a lot of pause between the period in the preceding sentence and the start of this one.]  Here’s the one-sentence answer to the why-question:  I wanted to have more impact.  In other words, I wanted to touch young lives, to see a fire of hope kindled, and dreams of potential take flight.  No vocation in the world does what teaching does.  Every job in the world involves teaching or training, but no job takes such amazing raw material that is youth and nurtures it and inspires it to achieve great things.

What I like about the personal development plan is that every development activity of the teacher must be measured against impact on and for students.  Am I a teacher that likes technology, that’s great, but if a student isn’t impacted in their learning or understanding through that passion of mine, then the effort is akin to a hobby in the garage on a weekend, it is not education.

“the adventure of inquiry”

In my prior post I described my teaching as a chance for me to become “reacquainted with ‘old friends’ in math, science, engineering and technology” hoping by transference to introduce my students to “old friends” in the hopes that therein they would find a new friend, or two.  This first year has definitely lived up to those expectations in the classes and electives which I have had a chance to design and teach.  There is so much that is readily accessible to students today, from the well-worn paths of knowledge to the very forefronts of our understanding.  Inquiry is about asking questions, and seeking answers.  What I love about teaching is not having the answers but asking the questions, and helping others find a voice for the questions they have.

The personal development plan has some good categories about making curriculum accessible to students of diverse needs and backgrounds.  I have a lot to learn and grow there, and the plan starts to chart a course.

“it is about relationship”

If teaching were only about a mere transaction of fact from one person who knows a fact to another person who has not yet encountered said fact, then I guess education would be completely understood, and also completely uninspired.  Other Microsoft folks that have gone into teaching say that their new job is an order of magnitude more intense than their job for the software giant.  My theory about that is explained by the emotional connection that needs to occur before any real teaching can take place.  This year I have already seen that without some passion from me, there is no chance that a passion in a student will spontaneously ignite.  Sometimes, it is purely my excitement and a student wanting that excitement and willing to invest a little, which has mean the difference between engagement and indifference.

My personal development plan recognizes that relationships not only between teacher and students plus parents, but also between teacher and colleagues plus  administrators, plus staff are essential.  To nurture those through communication, and through participation in various forums will be essential for my growth.

“forge impatience into a love of the process”

In recognition of my tendency to impatience, I wrote in the prior blog post that this attitude would need to change.  I would like to think that in the past year, I have forged my desire for immediate satisfaction to a more seasoned, long-term view.  It is certainly true that students need to see that example, and I hope to address that in a future version of my personal development plan, if it is not there explicitly this time.

“education is about process”

Following close on the prior point, but taking it one step further, I wanted to cut myself some slack in the first year, and remember that the immature person would expect to be able to switch careers immediately and be expert in the new environment without any failures, fits, starts, or signficant setbacks.  However, in order to model for students the value of resiliency, or help them see their own resiliency and how to foster and strengthen that in them, I need to share my growth more transparently, and especially where I have been disappointed with my own failures or shortcomings.  Through that honesty, and the requisite redemption, we set a path where they can also fail, be ignorant, and mess up, but grow through it all.  I guess the personal development plan embodies that whole sentiment.

Finally the real commitment in all of this is to do a blog post like this each time I revise my development plan, and share what I have seen through the reflection.

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