13 June 2014

#MOEDCHAT Blog Challenge #1 - I love being an educator because...

...of all the different experiences I have as a part of my job!
We try on different jobs and authentic experiences in attempts to prepare our students for the same. One trick to engaging your students is to pour yourself into your content to find your own passion for it. Like the method actor smoking a pack a day to play a lung cancer patient, diving into the same inquiry you desire for your students will enable you to know where you can look forward to pulling out particular students' interests in tour lesson for the day.

I spent 5 hours at the Ameren Corporation's headquarters on Tuesday shadowing different engineers and accountants, soaking up anything I could about the nature of their job and stealing (j/k, totally respectfully asking if I could have or take pictures of) whatever artifacts I could. It was a VIP treatment a randomly selected Ameren customer could probably not enjoy, but because of a STEM project based learning program I'm a part of right now, they opened their doors to us.

I've spent the last two days working with two of my co-teachers attempting to communicate to them the various ways I saw statistical graphs and analysis applied and we've worked together attempting to repackage that experience in a meaningful, approachable way for our future 9th graders. My co-workers weren't at Ameren with me, so I spent much of Wednesday showing artifacts and play-acting to bring them into my world. Co-teaching or PLC tip: If you cannot communicate your passion for a project or reason for pedagogical choice, you're going to have a hard time building consensus in the group, which means you won't get anything meaningful done. 

Your students don't expect you to necessarily have the same knowledge base as a best selling author, biomedical research physician, electrical engineer, or civil-rights historian, but they do have a right to fair expectation that you might teach with a similar passion as one. I'm guilty of not making nearly the attempt I could to bring in guest speakers, but having one for every standard is obviously impractical, so your students are relying on you to let them know why "insert-content-here" is worth committing their interest to.

...of the intangible value I place on knowing that being excellent at my job is important for more than increasing trading prices for public shares.
If that actually is your job, please don't feel like I'm getting judgey-mcjudgerson on you for it. That essentially was one of the tasks for one of the men I met at Ameren on Tuesday, and I found his passion for crunching statistical data to squeeze out trends infectious. He actually reminded me a lot of my father-in-law in the way that half of the work he did was not even his job, per we, but it was work he initiated to go the extra mile to add value to what he offered the organization because he had time left over after his regular work. That work he does investigating ways to lower the standard deviation of department expenditures to increas budget efficiency, and tracking customer satisfaction against a sample of Ameren's peers is important to a lot of people, I'm sure, but the exponential value a teacher can add to the world has a greater potential for good that appeals to me. 

That Ameren "continuous improvement analyst" didn't know how to do what he did with stats without an educator mentoring him through his postgraduate studies on his way to a PhD in Statistics. Somebody call Ashton Kutcher, is that a butterfly effect?

There's a question on the Gallup teacher insight survey that asks you to rate your agreement with this statement: "Teaching is the most important of all professions." I tend to get TOO meta on these surveys and overthink them, which means I factor way too many value-adding variables into this question, and I don't really come to a conclusion. Even in the last 10 minutes, I've convinced myself to both ends of that spectrum. I can get value and satisfaction out do ANY job if I do what I do to the glory of God. If your job sucks the life out of you, it probably means you're not contributing any passion to it. So, if any job can fulfill you with intangibles and an opportunity to please God, then teaching wouldn't necessarily be most important. No job would be. At the same time, as I thought about Ashton Kutcher as his Butterfly Effect, I remembered that any valuable learning needs some element of mentors hop or facilitating which means before you go and do any other work for God, a teacher was there to show you how.

...of the toys I get to play with that I generally would probably not have access to.
Many, many classrooms had interactive whiteboards and touchscreens before national news media began finding new ways to color election maps with them in 2010.

The iPad I've been using the past two and a half years was on loan to me from my district with the expectation that I would become an expert and investigate all the ways our students could use them in the future (or even if, perhaps, they were actually a poor choice to us with my students)

...of the things I have learned about for my job that I probably wouldn't know otherwise (and that make me a better friend/citizen/parent/husband)
how to talk to kids when you've let them down
how to talk to kids after they've disappointed YOU
why the way you respond in conflict is important because it doesn't go away (at least until the end of the semester.) :)
letting people know you're willing to listen to their concerns builds trust
sharing your life with people invites them to share with you
you cannot wait for the other person to ask to be forgiven - how you choose to respond should not be contingent upon their "worth" of it.

...of the number of people you can meet and small-talk with in public. 
For better or worse, everyone has an opinion about the teaching profession. And in a sense, it is unique among jobs in that everyone has spent years of their lives in direct observance of the profession, and that there are elements of the profession most of the general public practices. You may not be a "certified teacher," but you've probably tutored a friend or family member in at least one particular skill. That being said, you meet someone in public and reveal your secret identity as a teacher, you automatically have a common experience with someone beyond your burrito. 

During my jury-duty lunch break last week in Clayton at Chipotle, a gentleman on his 60s randomly started up a conversation with me while we were on line, and we ended up sharing the better part of 45 minutes together talking education. Being a teacher is like owning a Honda.


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Thanks for sharing!