Education changes lives. It opens doors of opportunity to learners, dreamers, thinkers, believers. Education saves lives. It gives us hope for the future and something to believe in. In my heart is the love and appreciation for all that the learning process represents, all that education has to offer to individuals.
“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”
~ John Dewey
I am a teacher because I believe that every child is capable, creative, and important. Teaching comes with many gifts; some of which are infinitely life-changing whereas others make it worthwhile just to see a student smile for the first time that day. Teaching possesses the power to give people a fighting chance at overcoming adversity and to make their marks in history.
It is for this reason that I strive to be the best person I can be not only for myself, but for others with whom I have the honor of serving. I am an educator; one who inspires, motivates, and supports the dreams of our young minds.
Making a Difference
I’d like to share one memory I will never forget. But first, I’d like to point out that “making a difference” doesn’t have to be this extravagant, flamboyant gesture a person performs. It can be something as simple as showing an ounce of kindness to someone who, despite the opinions of yourself or others, may not deserve the time of day. Okay, so here’s what I have to share about making a difference:
Miss Stogsdill (me): “Well, good morning! I missed seeing your smiling face!”
Student: “I’m not smiling. It’s not a good morning. I hate it here.”
Miss Stogsdill (me): “It’s always a good morning when I get to see you!” (gives the student a hug – despite his opposition)
Student: “Oh my god. I hate hugs. Ugh. I hate this.” (acting like he is displeased by the gesture)
This little conversation went on daily beginning on the first day of this little boy’s fifth grade career until the end of September when he finally softened up and learned that he could trust that I’d always be there to greet him with a smile. This kid never smiled. No matter what or who it was his reply never wavered: “I hate it.” He never really talked to anyone, and when he did you can guarantee it was never very pleasant or appropriate for school.
There was just something about him that urged me to show him that someone cared; to let him know that his existence mattered because it DOES matter; to provide him with a reason to feel good about himself. He wasn’t my student, but I made sure I saw him each day before school started.
One day after dismissal, I did what I always did: I made my way up the stairs to my classroom to sit down at my desk. I took in a breath and readied myself to reflect on the events of the day, but I found a pleasant at surprise on my desk. Here is what that gloomy student wrote me:
I read this and all the wonderings of whether it was worth it to subject myself to: long hours, embarrassing pay, politics, and spending my hard-earned money on school supplies were no longer in question.
Teaching is mostly a selfless act, at least I have come to believe this as a way to describe the work we do as educators. Think about those long hours we work, lessons we put so much thought and intentionality into, phone calls and home visits we make, etc. The list of “off-the-clock” work we do just to meet the needs of our learners is endless! No matter! I’ve chosen this path because my heart led me to it. I know in my heart that this is the profession I was called to and would not have it any other way.
To all my fellow educators out there, think about a time when you realized that your intentions impacted a student’s life: how did that make you feel? Did that feeling make it worth your daily challenges? I cannot speak for you, but moments like this makes me feel something I cannot describe in such a way that is worthy of words, but I do know that I thrive on this feeling that teaching brings me each day. It is what keeps me going.
Teachers: we are making a difference. What you do, what you say, how you hold yourself impacts your students and their learning. Know that you might be the only person in that student’s corner.
Here’s to making a difference: one hello, one hug, one impact at a time.
“The Child is made of one hundred…
A hundred ways of thinking
Of playing, of speaking.
A hundred always a hundred
Ways of listening…
A hundred worlds
A hundred worlds
~ Excerpt of a poem by Loris Malaguzzi
Can you think of a time when a child was responsible for your “Aha!” moment? I have had the honor of experiencing many moments where my pupils have led me in the learning process, and it is one of the most valuable experiences I have had the privilege of sharing with my students.
Loris Malaguzzi and Maria Montesorri, both Italian educational philosophers whom I see as my role models, believed that children have a hundred languages. In short, children have many talents and gifts that make them the special beings they are. There is a poem written by Loris Malaguzzi, and I share this poem with you now to provide insight on the ideal that influenced my own educational philosophy:
I like to think of myself as curious, adventurous, and excited to learn new things. I am especially excited to learn when my pupils are the ones teaching me something I never knew. The photo above captures my student and myself celebrating his end of the year celebration, which marks a new chapter in his life: middle school. I will forever cherish the lessons he taught me. Of course, I taught him how to think more critically, gave him book recommendations, and supported him in becoming a stronger writer. But I like to think that he taught me lessons I was able to apply to my life today. And I hope I did the same thing for him.
So here’s our story: I had this student in my classroom on the first day, laying on the “I’m too cool for school but I’m a good kid and don’t want anyone to know it” act extra thick. He struck me as a very mature student who understands more than that of his peers – and not just reading, writing, and math. But about life and the way the world works. He’s a very logical thinker, a person who questions things when they don’t seem to make sense. He is a natural leader and will never shy away from something just because it presents a challenge or becomes too pressing of an issue for others to endure. Because of his brilliant mind, experiences he brought from home to the classroom, and his overall easy-going personality, I relied on him to teach me all about his world and the way it works.
I guess you could say that he would come to me for book recommendations, advice, guidance, and support. I came to him to learn more about how to survive in my new school located in an urban, low-income setting. It is because of him that I felt confident enough to sincerely make genuine connections with him and his peers. He and his peers let me into their worlds, if only for a little while, for me to find my footing as a first year teacher placed in a challenging demographic area.
All in all, this kid taught me that I lived a rather sheltered life and that there was another world full of rich culture that until I had gotten to know him, I was completely ignorant of its existence.
Thank you, friend, for showing me how to cherish our differences and to welcome diversity with open arms.
Every Child is Important
Now, you might think I’m a dreamer who dreams the impossible dream, but I like to think that every child is important and should be valued. Think about how powerful it would be if all of our children grew up feeling like they were important and belonged somewhere, somehow in this crazy life awaiting to impact the future. Pretty awesome, right?
Students who feel valued are more inclined to listen to what you have to say. I’ve found that kids really only listen if they feel heard, respected, and appreciated. Students who feel as if you hate them are less likely to provide you with the level of attentiveness you are seeking.
So how do I start with making sure they’re listening and retaining all my wisdom? First, I make them feel important. I don’t just fake it either, because my philosophy entails that each child is in fact important and should be valued by every teacher, adult, mentor, etc. that child interacts with.
Then, I pour everything I have into building a relationship and getting to know that student. I know more than just what is on that child’s file: I know likes, dislikes, interests, aspirations, and of course, that his favorite subject is gym. But above all, I know the whole child. I see him for all his strengths he has to offer, his areas of need, and most importantly, who he is. Kids can pick up on which adults really care and which ones are simply present to go through the motions. I hope I come off as that one teacher who is and always will be there for her students. That is how I make them feel important. If at the end of the day they haven’t learned anything else but the fact that their teacher cares, knows they’re important, and feels like they’ve been heard, I’ve done my job for the day.
One of the most gratifying feelings as an educator is to see my students feel empowered and to become advocates of their own learning. When my discussions transition from teacher-led to student-led, this proposes the ideal that I have not only been effective, but provided my students with the ultimate learning experience. And that is to be leaders of their own learning. Empowerment is what creates leaders; it is what engages the learners in a marvelously organic way. This is what I strive to accomplish during each lesson. I smile from ear to ear, looking like a five year old on Christmas day when I do nothing but stand back and listen to authentic student-led learning unfolding before my eyes. These are the joys in life I live for!
One of the earliest moments from when I had the honor of knowing how it feels to empower my students was my first semester of student teaching. I started out leading the conversation, but it quickly turned into students conversing with each other, proposing questions, and responding to their peers’ inquiries. I was simply there to serve as a support system and to clarify when necessary. Luckily enough, I was recording this lesson for a project. Below is a brief clip that captured the moment of empowerment:
Oh my goodness! If you didn’t take time to review this quick clip that captures the very essence of empowerment and student-led learning, you totally should! This was over three years ago, but it still brings a bright and proud smile to my face because I led them to this point. But the most important thing: they were confident and felt safe enough to express their thoughts with one another because of the environment we established together as a community!
Cheers to empowerment, people. It’s a thing. It’s a marvelous thing.
Teaching is very much a profession where interacting with humans comes with the territory. As a teacher, you interact with so many individuals for a myriad of purposes on a daily basis. I interact with students, teachers, principals, school district representatives, the community, parents, etc. I wear many hats, as teachers who read this now may already know. With each hat comes a different purpose, but the common denominator here is interaction.
I find joy in interacting with people each day as a teacher. Even though each interaction may not be the outcome I would have preferred, it is still an experience I am grateful to have had. I think John Dewey, a brilliant educational philosopher, proposed the most accurate of claims: that we all learn through doing – through our experiences. It is through each experience that I find something to takeaway through the interactions with all sorts of lovely people.
I think what I enjoy most is being able to bring them a sense of comfort, confidence, and belonging. I do my best to welcome everyone to my classroom and to provide a safe and comforting environment for my learners. Interacting with others is most enjoyable for me when they walk away feeling heard, comforted, and appreciated by me. I teach for many reasons, and having the privilege to celebrate the gifts of others by showcasing their remarkable abilities with loved ones is what brings light to my life.
My Philosophy and Beliefs
Care to learn more about me and my teaching beliefs? Download one of these documents below to see how our philosophies and beliefs align. Comment below to share your thoughts!