Skip to main content

A Teacher or an Educator?

I hope that I am an educator and not a teacher.

Let me go back a few steps.  This past week I watched a very good friend of mine give her first TEDx talk on her experiences throwing out grades (and she rocked it!). This event also featured several student speakers.  All the students were fantastic – well spoken, poised and passionate in their delivery. They had a lot of great things to say but two of those things stood out for me.  One student talked about the experiences of students working hard to create projects that only the teacher sees.  This has sparked in me a tiny revolution but I am going to go into that further in another post.  This post focuses on the talk of a young man named Timmy, a senior in high school, who counted off the number of teachers he’d had over the years that he considered educators and not just teachers. As he went on to elaborate about what made a teacher an educator, I just kept thinking, “I wonder if he would call me an educator and not a teacher”.

What makes someone an educator as opposed to a teacher?  A few days out from the talk the details of what he said are starting to get a little fuzzy but here is what I remember (and have maybe filled in with some of my own ideas).  Educators are teachers that go the extra mile.  They may be wildly passionate about their subject and impart that passion on their students.  Educators may also be a maternal or paternal figure in the lives of their students, showing their students that they care about what they have to say and what is going on in their lives. Teachers, however, share what they know with their students but never quite make that special connection. I am a teacher, and I think, a pretty good one.  But that’s not enough.  I want to be an educator.

When I think back on my schooling, there are several teachers that I can point to and say that he or she made a lasting impression on me, several teachers that I can call an educator.  So (many years later) here is a thank you to those educators in my life:
·      Ms. Chin, my second grade teacher that took us to Chinatown on Chinese New Year
·      Ms. Neiman, my first grade teacher that helped me to find a job when I was in high school
·      Mr. Tannenbaum, my elementary school science teacher who taught me to love science
·      Mr. Ellel, who, through the magic of Facebook, I still (sort of) keep in touch with, and who helped me to realize I could actually do math when I was in middle school
·      Mr. Kreisman, the middle school French teacher that I will never forget
·      Ms. Stutman, the high school English teacher that would have passionate conversations with me about The Scarlet Letter

I was fortunate and had many good teachers, but a few really stand out because of the academic or personal impact they made on my life.  They are the educators in my life. A million thank yous for helping me to become the woman I am today.

Over the 12 years I have been teaching, hundreds and hundreds of students have come through my doors. Many years from now, if even a small percentage of them look back on their time in school and name me as one of the educators in their lives, then I have truly done my job.

Comments

  1. You are most certainly an educator, my friend... I've been thinking about this talk too and have considered writing. I'm glad you did though... Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Time to Fly

What if I fall?
Oh, but my darling. What if you fly?
- Erin Hanson

By this point we all know that "effective" teaching involves less of the teacher teaching and more of the students doing. But letting go of control in the classroom can be scary. This is a tale of how I faced my fear of loosing the reins, how it paid off in spades and how you can do the same.

My educational experience growing up was chalk and talk. I learned everything I was supposed to pretty well. So did my friends (likely because they were just like me). So, why change something if it isn't broken? In my first several years of teaching, chalk and talk was my default mode. When in doubt, just deliver the content. But, I knew all the research. This isn't really the way it should be done. Kids learn better when they do, when they are more engaged in the lesson, when they have more ownership, blah blah blah. But chalk and talk was working. So, why change the system? And what if I let go a little, try so…

I heart Middle School

I teach middle school. Yes, I chose to teach middle school. I have taught every grade from 6 through 12 and middle school is my happy place. When I moved and had to find a new job, the first places I looked were middle schools. In middle school the kids are old enough to have serious, adult-like conversations. But sometimes, they forget that they are trying to be all adulty and they act like kids. It's the best of both worlds. Yes, they can be moody and difficult as they try to navigate their way through the roller coaster ride that is puberty. But it is an awesome privilege to be a part of their lives as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to be.
My first formal teaching job was in a middle school. We were a new school with very green teachers. There were four classrooms, 6 teachers and a whole lot of sixth graders. I went in on the first day nervous and excited. I love science, love teaching science and I love working with kids. I was going to rock it! Fast for…