As I spend my fourth year teaching higher education at the university level, I find myself thinking constantly about my ten-year teaching career at the elementary and junior high school levels. Although I remember days that seemed to last forever, I also recall days that provided me with inspiring, insightful, thoughtful, and of course, comedic experiences. While it is highly enjoyable to ponder my fondest teaching memories, it was not until last spring that I was compelled to think about an interesting question raised by two future school teachers.
In May 2012, two 4th year university students, who were pre-service teachers at the time, asked me, “What is it about teaching school that you cherish the most?” Although I had not thought about that particular question much, I was not surprised at how quickly I responded to the inquisitive future school teachers. Immediately I declared,
I cherish every aspect of teaching! Where should I begin?
Although teaching provides an abundance of memories, opportunities and challenges, it is a profession that offers, by design, an opportunity to give back to others in unique ways. Every teacher possesses gifts to share, exceedingly high skill levels in specific areas that can elevate student learning, and distinctive character traits to help tomorrow’s leaders reach high levels of success. Teachers make a difference and I think we need to slow down sometimes and rediscover what it is about teaching that we cherish the most.
My passion toward teaching is so high, I often find myself wondering how other professions are chosen! However, in order to provide my two curious students with a solid response to their question, I decided to come up with a list of twenty-five of the greatest moments I experienced as a school teacher. Hence, I informed my two students that I would get back to them within a day or two.
As I began to compose the list, I aimed to consider the array of learning environments I was so fortunate to be a part of throughout the years (e.g., classrooms, gymnasia, libraries, field trips, parent/guardian interviews, athletic competitions). As you probably guessed, it was not an easy task to jot down a short list of twenty-five.
MY LIST OF 25
What it is about teaching school that I cherish the most is being given the opportunity to—
1. teach students to count by twos, fives, tens, etc. for the first time
2. join a Grade 4 soccer game during recess and observe their competitive facial expressions
3. receive a torn teddy bear as a gift because that was all a student could afford (according to her)
4. teach students to cooperate with others through effective cooperative learning activities
5. teach students to speak publicly during celebrations, concerts and social events
6. arrive at school at 4:30 AM for three consecutive weeks to water an ice rink for students to learn to skate
7. observe a student who did not do well in math receive 100% on a unit test
8. teach coping skills to a running team that finished in 1st place only to have it taken away because our last runner barely stepped on a line
9. go to a nearby lake to enjoy a day with students with special needs who never explored the wilderness before
10. teach students to think positively and to believe in themselves
11. participate in the Staff Storm vs. Student Sabres floor hockey game to complete the Ever Active Cup tournament
12. lead stimulating science experiments for junior high school students
13. lead Junior Achievement initiatives with students and to watch them turn into successful business people
14. go on educational field trips to the local zoo and observe students study an array of animals for the first time
15. teach students to comprehend what they read
16. help students decide to join an athletic team and watch their levels of self-esteem increase significantly
17. teach students the importance of trying their best in everything they do
18. observe former students grow into successful adults
19. share delicious home-cooked cupcakes during classroom birthday parties
20. teach students to inquire, to ask critical questions and to challenge in a positive manner
21. hear a student say, “Thank you for giving me a chance!”
22. listen to students’ stories about extracurricular accomplishments (e.g., hockey tournaments, speech contests)
23. have former students come to my university office and share what they are presently and successfully taking in university
24. see a former student, who was once labelled a “student with special needs,” be admitted into the Faculty of Law
25. make a difference in the lives of my students!
Although some of the points on the list were less specific than others, as I read it over, the memories come back so quickly and clearly. I know I made the correct career choice. I only hope our future teachers realize that similar experiences and opportunities will occur throughout their lives. Let’s continue to speak highly of our profession and continue to remind ourselves of all the positive experiences we have collected through the years.
I hope that, after reading this article, you take some quiet time to reflect on your top twenty-five teaching experiences so that you become well-equipped to respond to the question: What is it about teaching school that you cherish the most?
Enjoy making a difference in the lives of your students and enjoy continuing to create the most conducive learning environments for them!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brent D. Bradford
Brent D. Bradford has taught at both the Elementary and Junior High school levels. After a decade of being a school teacher, he returned to the University of Alberta to pursue graduate work. He is currently working towards a Doctor of Philosophy Degree. While doing so, Brent teaches curriculum methods courses. In 2011, he was recognized as an award-winning Teacher Educator at the University of Alberta.
This article is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s Mar/Apr 2013 Issue