By Ian Fogarty
If it takes a village to raise a child, what does it take to “raise a teacher? It is an ongoing process, an evolution of sorts due to a number of influences. I appreciate the people who care enough to give both positive and negative feedback like fellow teachers, administrations and students. Teachers allow me to bounce ideas, encourage me and sometimes laugh at me, with all the best intentions. I have had wonderful administrations who run interference when I was trying something innovative. But mostly it has been my students who have helped to guide me. Of course, I love the comments like, “It was hard, but it was good for me” or “It is my lowest mark and the one I am most proud of”
. But equally important, and more difficult to hear, the, “I just can’t learn from you” . Those are the ones that made me rethink what I was doing and it is those comments that help guide my journey towards 21C.
During my teacher training, my instructor asked me if science was knowledge or a process. Of course I said that it was process and knowledge was just a side benefit. But, I did not really understand what I was saying much less practice it. In my first classes, I was a great lecturer, giving high end, fast paced content, finishing courses with two weeks to spare. I’m not sure my heart believed my head when I told myself that the students who struggled were somehow defective, because I was doing a great job teaching.
Slowly, I began to realize the content in my physics and chemistry classes is
This path less travelled has made all the difference. Now, my students do most of the work after I set the foundation. I am less concerned with ensuring that every student has learned the exact same thing and I cannot tell you as precisely as I used to what the final exam will look like. I used to believe that because I lectured to every student and gave the same exam to every student, that I was able to measure their common learning. The realization that I was wrong gave me the freedom to take short detours, make responsible exceptions and personalize learning for students with particular needs and desires.
There is still a long way to go, and I can see some challenges looming in the not too distant future. Not only is this thing called teaching the most important paid work in the universe, but it is also so exciting to watch eyes light up when a concept makes sense, to see kids giving up lunches to learn and to watch a kid mature into an adult. I am blessed to be a teacher. I thank my community for helping to grow as a teacher and more importantly, so do future students.