Called to Teach: My Most Influential Teachers (Infographic)
I think called is the perfect word to describe what I feel as a teacher. While there are many reasons to teach, this reason stands out above the rest because its focus is on our students and what we feel we are meant to do in this life.
My Teaching Examples
The teachers in my life who saw their teaching as a call come to mind readily:
Ms. Clark, my middle school P.E. teacher, who would cheer her heart out, jumping up and down, at the end of the mile run. (No matter if you ran a 7 minute mile or a 15 minute mile.)
Mr. Sloat, my Sophomore world history teacher, who showed slides of his travels abroad while teaching us so that the world outside of our tiny town seemed relatable to us. (And inspired me to live abroad as soon as was possible and graduate with my BA in history.)
Mrs. Marley, my 2nd grade teacher, who asked me to stay after class after she had seen me reading a book underneath my desk during class and told me to NEVER be ashamed to read. Then found books and more challenging math problems for me to enjoy. (I shared about her in my Week 1 Portfolio Assignment.)
Mr. Moore, my 8th grade math teacher, who taught in such a beautifully “multiple intelligence theory” way that on the day we learned about calculating area and differentiating between perimeter, radius, and diameter, he walked around the room (stepping on our desks, tables, and anything else in his way) to demonstrate the perimeter of the room to peals of laughter from his students.
Mr. Sprague, my middle school band teacher, who saw the bullying I was experiencing and opened the band room during lunch for me to play on the drums; who taught music in experiential ways, recognizing for most of his students, this was their one chance to learn and play music. (I also shared about him in my Week 1 Portfolio Assignment.)
Mrs. Flint, my soft-spoken 3rd grade teacher, who recognized that I was struggling outside of the classroom and made sure that our classroom was a safe haven for me.
Mrs. Heinrichs, my 6th grade American history teacher, who heard that I was running the mile each morning on the track to try and reach the elusive “Presidential Fitness Award” and when she saw I was slowing down, took off her high heels and ran with me the rest of the way on our dirt track in her nylons.
Mrs. LaBosh, my 8th grade science teacher, who took me on field trips out to the Verde River near her home to do water testing because she saw both my thirst for learning and my lack of friends.
Dr. Schwegler, my linguistics teacher on Semester at Sea, who’s passion for languages was clearly evident despite near constant seasickness; who was absolutely thrilled to have me explore Deaf sign languages as we traveled from country to country even though my papers were focused mainly on my personal experiences with the languages as there was little to no peer-reviewed research on these languages. (Thus encouraging me to make my work part of that research.)
And finally, my parents, who encouraged us kids to share at the dinner table all that we had learned that day at school; who continue to be incredible examples to me of what it is to be life-long learners.
The philosophies I have studied in the course of my Masters in Education degree are tangible to me because of these teachers’ examples (and, for better or worse, because of the teachers I did NOT list above).
My Call to Teach Minority Languages
I feel my personal calling is rooted in helping those I teach, especially those who face significant barriers to learning; specifically Deaf students, students with disabilities and learning disorders, and minority-language students. During college I started my small nonprofit organization to sponsor the first Deaf college students in developing nations because I feel this call in my bones. The students we sponsor are those who already have and will continue to be leaders in their Deaf communities, who are willing to stand alone at university as the only Deaf student, who will use their education to build up their Deaf communities, and who will inspire the next generation of Deaf college students. (I shared some of their stories and their successes in my Week 5 written assignment.)
My personal teaching philosophies (as I explored in past posts) are how I identify and address student’s diverse backgrounds in the classroom:
Multiple Intelligence Theory:
“My students know they are geniuses with differing learning methods. I teach each concept in 3 or more ways because I know ALL students will benefit when the theory of multiple intelligences reigns in my classes" (Click for Post).
A student will light up, participate more, or have increased comprehension when I teach according to their preferred learning method, such as musical, logical, rhythmic, natural, intrapersonal, and interpersonal intelligences.
Teaching with this theory allows for differences in learning due to disability, learning disorders, and / or unstable home environments.
Safe Environment for Learning:
“My students know that if they want to try again, I will keep providing tries (from tests to projects to friendshipping). My goal is to endow them with a growth mindset, not a set mindset. Mistakes are understood as key to learning, thus welcomed. My class is a safe setting for nurturing resilience, grit, and determination" (Click for Post).
“And for students who have struggled with behavior in the past, it is only in a safe learning environment that they can have a chance at focusing their actions on positive progress. I believe it is not fair to force ‘learning’ on a student when they are in fight, flight, or freeze mode" (Click for Post).
This kind of safe environment also allows for flexibility for students’ whose home life is stressful, abusive, or otherwise challenging and significantly impacts their ability to focus and learn.
Bilingual / Bicultural Education:
“My students know they have the basic human right to their own language. Minority languages are welcomed and encouraged in my class” (Click for Post).
“I believe one of the greatest impacts a teacher can have is to appreciate linguistic diversity in the classroom and usurp the prevalent idea that English is the superior language and all others are inferior (a natural byproduct in monolinguistic and ethnocentric communities)” (Click for Post).
A multilingual perspective can be nurtured when we emphasize the value of knowing more than one language, provide opportunities for minority-language students to use their language in the classroom, recruit minority-language students to lead out and model a language in language classes, and as we provide opportunities for monolingual students to learn the “foreign” language that most appeals or is the most applicable to them.
The teacher has the power to offset the power dynamics of a monolinguistic curriculum or classroom by providing minority-language students opportunities to shine and lead out with their classmates.
Passion for Learning; Learning via Passions:
Every student has a passion that they would love to learn about, regardless of their linguistic, familial, economic, or religious background. This passion-centered learning can be the grand equalizer in the classroom.
In conclusion, my heart-felt goal is to always be a safe teacher to my students and provide an “inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong opportunities for all” (UNESCO, 2017).
UNESCO, 2017. A guide for ensuring inclusion and equity in education. Retrieved October 7, 2020, from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002482/248254e.pdf