I was fortunate enough to have some very dedicated and enthusiastic teachers when I was in student. They set very high expectations for us and demanded we work hard to meet them. These people showed me through their actions, that teaching was not a job, but rather a calling. I learned much from them and hope someday to live up to the standards they have set for those in my profession.
At school, I try to surround myself with teachers who share this same view. They find time to go the extra mile for their students. They make their courses interesting, full of life, challenging, and fun. Their dedication is infinite and their passion remarkable. I am fortunate to work with such people.
They could have been lawyers, doctors, or some other high paying (and sometimes more respected) professionals, but in many cases, what these teachers do is infinitely more important and satisfying and besides....there is a hefty pay check at the end of the week right?
Why Middle School?
Mark Twain once said "the average American male never lives beyond the mental age of 14."
Years ago, I kicked around the idea of going up a level and teaching in high school. I gave it some thought before I soon realized what I would be missing....the "magic" of middle school. That "magic" is very hard to describe.
Kids at this age are inquisitive, emotional, anxious, energetic, full of apprehension, and yet, genuine. Put all those adjectives into a adolescent who is growing like a weed and you have quite a paradox. Students crave freedom but want structure. They claim to know their chosen path, but covertly seek guidance. They desire to be unique, but are obsessed with conformity. They exhibit maturity, yet in the blink of an eye, can remind you that they are still only young adults. All these contradictions are what makes Middle School a challenge. Most importantly, middle schoolers know how to have "fun."
Why give that up for high school?
What do I want for my students?
A friend is an investment specialist. His career is about helping people save and spend their money. Everyday, he deals with numbers.... percentages, banks, bonds, and all that financial stuff. He is very good at what he does. So, when we get together to play golf, what do we talk about? The Dow Jones? Mortgage rates? The price of eggs in China?
Nope.....The Alamo.... What?
He just finished reading a book on the men at 1the Alamo. Now he is reading a biography of John Adams.
Somewhere, somehow, my friend developed a love for History. Amidst the constant change of the market and economy and the stresses involved with his job, he still finds time to delve into the past to quench his thirst for history.
I want that for my students. I want my students to leave my class with a greater love for the subject...regardless of the grade they received in my class.
The importance of making it fun
It really isn't difficult to make a history class fun. It goes hand in hand with the subject. Once the subject is no longer fun to teach or to learn, I'll want out.
I don't want my classes to be ordinary, but extraordinary. As the coach once said, the difference between "ordinary" and "extraordinary" is the little "extra" you put in at the beginning.... Makes sense.
If It Ain't Broke....
I hope that I can remain true to the things that have defined me over time. For better or worse, the belief system I have come to adopt has defined my teaching. Over the years, I have many to thank for that system. I am open to new ideas but you will have a hard time convincing me to reverse course. Teachers are being constantly bombarded with the latest version of educational practices, many of which are simple re-treads of old time maxims. The struggle is filtering out the pressure to change simply for the sake of change from initiatives that make sense. It is a tough task but one worth undertaking to preserve that which already works well. You don't need to fix things that are not broken.