I come to education later in life and with a passion. I did not expect that I would have a second career. I volunteered last year in my daughter’s kindergarten class for a few hours a week to be generous to the community. Quickly, I discovered that I was the one receiving the gift. The children were extraordinary; exciting, challenging, and loving. Her teachers and the other teachers I met at her school were extraordinary as well. Their caring, professionalism, and openheartedness moved and inspired me.
Reasons for Wanting to Become a Teacher
I believe that teaching is an essential and noble profession. Next to parents, teachers are the most important foundational element in our society. Everything important begins in childhood, especially knowledge, self-knowledge, resilience, and character. Proper preparation is fundamental to living a full, rewarding life. Without self-knowledge, children may follow wrong paths and end up far from their true callings; lost, sad, and unfulfilled. Without resilience, the storms and challenges of life can turn children from their highest path, leaving them far from who they might have been. Finally, character is the intangible force that raises society as a whole, minimizes shocks and collisions between people, and balances self-interest and social good. Ideally, all of this education starts in the home but often the parents themselves may be inadequately skilled in this regard. School is a necessary complement to and supplement of this learning.
As I began to read about children and education, a new world opened. I understood that I had the opportunity to make at least a few children’s educational experiences more nurturing and productive than my own had been. The brilliant body of work I was reading was ripe with opportunities to improve the outcomes and experiences of students today. In not much time, it became clear to me that the second half of my life would be about children and their education.
Personal Characteristics That Will Make Me an Effective Teacher
I have been a teacher all my life in various ways. I have a love of learning. Sharing that learning is part of the fun. I never imagined that I would, but I love the students. I love their innocence and their simple joys and their fresh eyes as they look at the world. I love the challenge of communicating ideas and skills. I love the idea of leading a team of learners toward a goal of demonstrated mastery. I love the idea of giving these children a set of skills and an outlook that will hold them, solid, brave, and capable, as they move through the balance of their academic career and through life.
I have no doubt that I can be effective. I succeeded in the competitive world of Wall Street with a fraction of the passion, enthusiasm, and dedication I bring to this work. By the end of 18 months of academic training, I will have the knowledge to be effective. I have been in the classroom since the fall of 2009 and will remain there throughout my academic training. I will have an added 14 weeks of intensive student teaching as the culmination of this program. I am a SCUBA instructor and an Emergency First Response Instructor. I am a trained sky diver and I worked as a trader and trading manager. I noted with surprise a few months ago that when the atmosphere in the classroom becomes chaotic and loud, I just about reach my optimal operating level of stress. I much prefer organized, calm, and quiet but I will have no trouble keeping a clear head during the challenging moments.
How I Will Stay Current as a Teacher
My love of learning will be a powerful force, driving my continued acquisition of pedagogical and content knowledge. I am highly creative and will continue to experiment with learning tools and strategies. I also have a high level of technical competence and look forward to exploring and expanding the limits of SMART boards ™ and other technologies. I have a helpful quirk, not unlike OCD. I am driven to the continuing pursuit of steady innovation and improvement. I will work continuously to optimize my effectiveness and the joy of learning in my classroom.
I have complementary interests in education outside the classroom that will also keep me current, involved in educational innovation, and philosophy. One of my early sources of insight into education came from Michael Gurian and his books (Gurian, 1999; Gurian & Stevens, 2005; Gurian, Henley, & Trueman, 2001; Gurian, Stevens, & King, 2008). I became a certified Gurian trainer last summer and intend to continue learning, using, and teaching nature-based educational strategies. I have also set up a small foundation with the specific goal of aiding the growth and acceptance of some of the powerful educational ideas I have found that have not been fully adopted in the mainstream.
How I Will Maintain My Passion
Teaching is no small undertaking, but I am confident that I will remain dedicated, excited, and energetic. I have several advantages. This is not a career for me; I have already had one of those. It is a calling. It is what I was born to do and I have no doubt in that regard. I am neither wide-eyed nor innocent. I have been in organizations for most of my life and I understand their functioning. I know of the resource scarcity, the time scarcity, and the often indifferent or even hostile forces thwarting excellence. I know it is not about me and, in an important way, it is not about any given child. My job is to do the best I can do under the circumstances. I can and will do that. I have had a lifetime of doing things that did not matter except in the ego-driven context of late-20th century America. This matters and I will not fail or quit.
My Educational Philosophy
Teaching is both an art and a science. William Butler Yeats said, “Education is not the filling of the pail, but the lighting of the fire” (“Famous Quotes”, 1998-2010). I believe education is both the lighting of the flame and the filling of the pail. The art of education lights the fire. Students learn best the things they love. Showing children how to love learning is a powerful, unending, and essential gift. However, to be effective, knowledge needs to be passed scientifically (the “filling of the pail”).
I believe students love to learn and that all students can grasp any elementary school material with sufficient help. My intent as a teacher is to have clear standards, evaluate students against those standards, and continue to iterate learning until mastery levels are reached in all reasonable cases. I have never met a bad child. I believe that elementary school children are all desirous of and entitled to a nurturing and supportive environment. Mostly, I believe each child is an individual deserving of my best efforts and support and that the students and I share an obligation to find ways for them to gain mastery.
My philosophy is to act in service of the children. I will give them a learning skeleton of essentialist standards and flesh it out with the most exciting, flame-lighting achievements of humanity (be they literature, science, math, art, music or something else). I believe a teacher’s duty is to provide students with the essentials and the tools, catalysts, and opportunities to explore their higher purpose.
I am moving forward in my formal education. I have learned about learning styles. I have learned about developmental stages. I am currently learning how to structure a lesson, unit, and year and how to execute those structures. I will next be learning about English language learners and how to teach effectively with little language in common. I will have nearly four months in a classroom in practical training. At the end of two years, I will be much more knowledgeable in the art and science of education. I will be ready to bring my passion to whatever opportunities I am given. I am excited by the learning opportunities that await me and I am grateful for the chance to make the lives of a few children just a tad bit better.
Famous quotes by William Butler Yeats. (1998-2010). Retrieved January 26, 2010, from http://www.famous-quotes.com/author.php?aid=7889
Gurian, M. (1999). The good son: A complete parenting plan. East Rutherford, NJ: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam.
Gurian, M., & Stevens, K. (2005). The Minds of Boys. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Gurian, M., Henley, P., & Trueman, T. (2001). Boys and girls learn differently!: a guide for teachers and parents. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Gurian, M., Stevens, K., & King, K. (2008). Strategies for teaching boys and girls — elementary level: A workbook for educators. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Kaizen. (2010). In Wikipedia. Retrieved March 15, 2010, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaizen
Ratey, J., & Hagerman, E. (2008). Spark: the revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain . New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.
 I discovered SMART response™ (http://www2.smarttech.com/st/en-US/Products/SMART+Response/default.htm) technology and can’t wait to see how that can facilitate inclusion in discussions, pop quizzes, and many other real time data collection and analysis tasks.
 “Kaizen” in Japanese (“Kaizen”, 2010).
 This would include the Gurian nature-based work as well as work around mind-body connections as described in the writings of Ratey & Hagerman (2008), among others.