Tuesday, March 29, 2016

On Being a Gymnast

    Today's writing challenge is to create a metaphor/simile/analogy to describe my teaching philosophy. I'm not sure this is a philosophy but it didn't take me long to think of it. So here it is,, my own little metaphor about teaching. A teacher is a flexible gymnast.
     What the heck is that supposed to mean? Well, let me tell you the thought process that brought me to this conclusion. When first confronted with today's question, I immediately wondered what I believe a teacher is--a parental-like figure, a counselor, an educator--one who wears many hats. Ergo the gymnast--someone who is flexible and who can jump through hoops.

     The last comment may need the most explanation. Jump through hoops? Yeah, I said it. Fill out the PO just the right way. Request help for a student by contacting the right person and filling out the right form. Six credits in five years to keep your license. Document this, sign that, fill out this form, go through these channels, etc. I'm not complaining. There needs to be order. But sometimes you just need to be adept at jumping hoops. Every year or two there seems to be a new idea coming down the pike that educators embrace, changing all the previous work we had just completed after the last new idea had rolled through. That's the frustrating part. Those are the hoops.
      But it's not only jumping through hoops. It's vital that we as educators are flexible. I think that may be our most important characteristic. This is coming from someone whose early philosophy mirrored that of Marie Antoinette. If my kids couldn't keep up with my "sit and get" teaching style and couldn't comprehend MY style of teaching, well they had a problem. Forget my changing for them. No, "let them eat cake!" Too bad if they were starving academically, let them feast on the nonexistent "cake" in their lives--the stuff I assumed they had access to, which, in fact, they didn't.
     My arrogance rivaled Antoinette's if not exceeded it. Slowly, my attitude has changed. Credit two things for that. One, the school where I teach and two, my teaching mentor Max. He had a profound impact on the way I viewed education philosophy and more importantly, how I viewed kids. If I learned anything from Max it was the importance of being a gymnast in my approach to students.
     I must be flexible. I can't think of a single quality that embraces more. If you're flexible, you'll be willing to differentiate instruction for students, know not everyone learns the same way. If you're flexible, you'll realize kids are dealing with huge outside factors that make concentrating on school difficult some days. If you're flexible, you'll realize your content isn't the end all, be all in your kids' lives today or any day and realize that's okay. If you're flexible, you aren't married to your lesson plans. Sometimes learning windows appear that you need to open for the fresh air they bring into sometimes stale teaching. If you're flexible, you'll adapt and incorporate other teacher's successes into your own repertoire.
     In real life I'm probably the least flexible person I know. But one thing I've learned through out the years is flexibility is a must have for teachers. It really does matter to students and to yourself as a professional. Remember students first. Flexibility matters. It can make all the difference.

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