Thursday, September 22, 2011

Teaching Is a Labor of Love

I've disappeared again and sincerely apologize. While blogging and reflecting on my thoughts is something really important to me I have not placed it high on my list of priorities with so many things on my plate this semester. Rather than my early morning or late night thoughts being crafted into blog posts I have been taking more time to sleep or actually reading my school books. Fancy that!

One of the additional things I'm doing this fall is co-instructing a University 101 freshman seminar course with a professional staff member on campus. It's a three-credit college level course that pro-longs orientation for students, connects them with resources on campus and assists them in transitioning in a way to make them successful students here at USC. It has been an absolutely amazing experience so far but I did not realize just how much work would go into it.

My mother has taught for just about thirty years and growing up I definitely saw how much effort was put into planning lessons. I was confused of why someone would need to do so much planning when they had taught kindergarten for 20+ years, but I now understand. Every year is different. Every class is different. Every student is different. Material changes. One way will not always work for different groups of people. Now I also see my boyfriend who is a high school teacher and additionally coaches three sports. Seeing the amount of dedication, time and effort  he puts in to make high school seniors excited about economics is admirable. Hearing stories of the students he's influenced is even more heart-warming.

Where I'm going with all of this is that I am enrolled in an "Intro to College Teaching" course to supplement my U101 teaching experience. It's a small group seminar design where we discuss what's going great in our classes and what we have challenges with. We're constantly learning about ways to facilitate, hold discussions, and engage our students. Yesterday our professor, Dr. Jenny Boom, shared a blog post with us written by Louis Schmier who teaches in the Department of History at Valdosta State University.

Reading this piece I connected with every word. Every late night I have stayed up preparing for 8:00 am U101 class (it's as brutal for me as it is for the students!) and every worry I've had for my student's learning and success is natural and a necessary part of teaching that is not always evident to students or outsiders. Knowing that many of my friends and followers are connected to education in some way I wanted to share.

This post is long so I have just copied the first two paragraphs, but please feel free to visit his blog to read the rest of this post. Enjoy!

"I haven’t been in the mood to share any thoughts lately. But, yesterday I was at a joyous Bar Mitzvah party and got into a conversation with an out-of-town guest from New York about the economy. In the course of our exchange, I mentioned that Georgia teachers were being furloughed. Her passing but revealing response placed teachers in the derisive category of “overpaid ‘burger flippers’ who have it so easy and don’t do all that much anyway.” She didn’t know me, and in deference to the occasion, I let the comment pass. But, not now. On this Labor Day, when we honor work, when we officially respect and revere working people, when we relax from work, I want to say that teaching requires a lot of work; it demands the intense and lasting “sweat equity” of devotion, passion, compassion, conviction, commitment, persistence, endurance, and perseverance. Contrary to this woman’s views that unfortunately is held by too many both inside and outside academia who far too often treat teachers as rank amateurs or unskilled doofuses, teaching is not an unskilled job; it’s not something you do when you can’t do anything else; it’s not a walk in the part; it’s not a piece of cake; it’s not a 9 to 5 job fraught with overwhelming amounts of vacation time; it’s not merely talking; it’s not something you can do in your sleep; it’s not something anyone can do. 

Teaching takes intense love; it’s about falling in love and staying in love with public service; it’s about staying in love consistently and unconditionally with each and every student. Teaching is about deep and acute awareness and otherness. Teaching is always about getting great things done for others, not about getting credit for yourself. Always. It’s always about each of those students, about challenging their habits, about stretching their imagination, about helping them reach for their potential. Always. It’s never about any of us academics, never about enlarging both our resume and renown. Never."

-Louis Schmier

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