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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Teaching as a Catalyst for Human Potential

There are students in our rooms that need us and others that will be fine on their own. Those that need us can often be the most challenging to handle in terms of teaching and behavior - but that is why they need us. Somewhere along the line they have fallen victim to unfortunate circumstances. Whether these were experienced in utero or at the hands of a loved one; they have arrived in your class with this truth as baggage. Teachers are the people who can help shape a student's life in a single year. Every year that student is exposed to new routines, new ideas, new expectations and should emerge as a more well-rounded individual.

Unlike parents, students get to 'trade in' teachers annually. Without doubt, there are always teachers that have challenged us in both positive and negative ways. For myself, a brutal first-year university English professor deterred me from staying in the English Department at Queen's. Who knows where I would be or what I would be doing had I been timetabled into some other professor's English class? However, I feel that these glimpses into learning environments that don't work have allowed me to become a more well-rounded teacher myself. It is difficult to identify and truly enjoy the good, unless you have sampled the bad.

Students will always have things to say about their teachers. This incredibly inspirational speech given by Dalton Sherman with over 76, 000 views on YouTube is a testament to how profoundly teachers (and parents) can prepare and educate a child - especially in public speaking. I was first shown this during a Reading course that I was taking last year, and while watching it, I just kept picturing students that I have taught who might have been thinking the things that Dalton is saying.

How many of our students have the potential in them to deliver a speech like Dalton? How many of us teachers have helped to prepare students in our classes with the skills necessary to accomplish tremendous things? Every once in a while, remember Dalton's speech as a way of allowing yourself to take credit for the learning that you have inspired. Maybe one day it will be a former student of yours that is preparing a conference center full of teachers for another academic year.

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