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…

Change Your Game

For years, professional development (PD) was something I had to drag myself to. It was mandated and usually kind of boring. In my second school it got a little better because most of the staff went to PD together. We got yummy lunch and got to bond as group. Now, I'm in my third school and in the next phase of my career. I have found the PD groove. The key it seems is to choose the PD you want to go to (as much as you can).  You can even organize PD's if you feel so motivated. Get involved in your own education and it will become something you look forward to rather than dread.

For me, the shift started when my friend Starr started taking me to PD's and pushing me to get more professionally involved. It started with an EdCamp (as I am writing this I am sitting at an EdCamp event). It was exciting to be in a space where everyone was excited to talk about pedagogy and was looking to better their practice. Before that, my colleague interactions at PD's  largely consisted …