Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A reflection on my education

I was a good student...or so I was told my educational career.

This year marks my 10th year in high school education. And, after 10 years, I've had a moment of clarity: what is a good student and what is a great teacher? I'm sure some of you came to this conclusion long ago, but I've not hit my revelation.

So, I'm taking a journey down my educational career.

When I look back on K-12 school, I don't think about it fondly, despite being an honor student the majority of my education. I was quiet and many teachers took that as a sign I was content. I was not. In fact, it was not until college that I felt I blossomed; that I felt a love for school.

I knew I like to learn, but that passion for learning, that belief that I could do anything with that passion, did not set in until my junior year of college. And, I have a few professors to thank for that.

When we think about how we educate students, we must think about those students - you know, the ones who make the grades and don't get into trouble. I think I'd just be filling out papers behind a desk if I had not met a few very important teachers who pushed that passion out of me.

Can you teach passion? No. Can you lead others to it? YES.

Third grade: Up until this point, I hated school. I don't remember anything fondly. Third grade was a hard year in many ways. My mom, only 28 at the time, was diagnosed with a more severe form of cancer. I started another new school (as I would do every year until 9th grade), and my little brother was entering kindergarten. But, then I met Mrs. Estes. I've looked for her for years, but have never been able to find her, sadly. At the time, I was just starting to be competitive in road races. She noticed this and made me a class celebrity. I was, then, the go-to person for all things running. It made me confident in something for the first time. I didn't think I was a great reader until that point. However, she showed me books on running and, within the year, I was three grade levels ahead. I was afraid to write or express my feelings. She gave me a pencil and paper and had me voice my concerns to the President, President Bill Clinton. And, Yes, he responded. That began a series of letter-writing campaigns to various political figures and celebrities. She was passionate about me. I can't remember the actual subject matter of third grade, but I can say I jumped to the head of my class. And, I became confident in my skills as a student.

8th grade: I discovered I loved English and I was fairly decent at it. In late elementary school, I started a newsletter for my grandmas. I updated it every month and included newspaper-style articles. But, I never thought I was good at it in a school setting. Ms. Marshall let me know I was good. It was at that point I decided I wanted to become an English teacher. She was confident in my abilities.

Junior Year College: Professor Joanna, professor of Native American Women's literature. By that time, I knew I had a love of women's literature. However, I struggled writing essays. I struggled expressing my creativity. I was afraid to ask for help. She made office hours and paper reviews mandatory. She made me speak up. And, since this point, I have felt confident writing.  I have spoken up in class. I have challenged the norm. She made a "creative" out of me.

When I think about the three things that I remember most in my education, I think of creativity. Though standardized tests don't measure this, it was the one thing that propelled me as a student. Not only did I perform better because of it, it made me responsible for my learning.

So, the question I ask of all educators is: how are you encouraging confidence and creativity in your students? I'm an edtech ninja, but these two values are mandatory for anything else to work. In fact, innovation (my chosen word over technology) stems form this.

Be creative. Be confident.

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