Everyone evolves in their job or career. It’s different for everyone; however, not only do each of us change, different reasons initiate each bit of change. Do you have a single moment that changed your career life? If so, do remember the key components as place, date, time, and situation?
I can’t imagine a teacher getting it right on Day 1 of their career. After all, one enters their classroom from the protective confines of observations, experiences, and student teaching – but now that new teacher is all alone with the elements.
To me, my teaching career involved two halves. Content and discipline dominated the first half. After all, two of my strengths were organizing and explaining information.
I recall a story of student who came to my defense when a peer complained that I was so hard. She explained that I was easy because I presented the information well, laid it out in front them, but the content was hard – not me. Oh my, is biology ever heavy in terminology. On the other hand, I later determined that didn’t mean I was a good teacher.
The labs were OK, but not my strength. Like most science teachers, labs were done to support/verify the already-presented content.
I don’t know how it happened, but professional development was very important to me. State, regional, and national conferences were always on my radar. I tried to attend those within a reasonable distance, plus I didn’t mind providing some of my own expenses because (the way I saw it) that’s what professionals do. These conferences were learning experiences – although a side of me (like most teachers) was looking for ideas to fit into my system – after all, I (like most teachers) know what is best for my students.
Toward the end of my career’s first half, the school district hired a math-science curriculum coordinator. Although primarily a math person, I processed her thoughts because she was good at stimulating my thinking. Besides – I had already heard this information before at the conferences; but I didn’t put my knowledge into action.
I wish I would have recorded the date, time, exact setting, and circumstances of the next event. I recall being in a session at a National Science Teachers Association regional conference in Louisville, Kentucky when the light bulb became bright – causing me to proclaimed, “I’ve done a great job of doing it wrong all these years.”
Reflections can be powerful, and I wonder how many people would admit what I did – especially one with 13 or so years of experience. From that moment in Louisville, I committed myself to change. During the rest of the school year, our coordinator encouraged me to try some things – similar to test driving a car – which I did. I also identified areas where I needed training – plus where to get it – and I eagerly attended several intense classes and workshops for 6 months.
As the next school year started, my teaching approach and philosophy changed 180 degrees. I shifted from a lecture-based to activity-based – from teacher centered to student centered – from content driven to application based – from textbook driven to the textbook being an aid – from the sage on the stage to the guide on the side – from dispensing informing to students to having students learn for themselves – from me telling what they needed to know to me guiding their learning as they figure it out – from me tweaking prepared activities to me designing my own lessons that had a clearly defined instructional strategy.
There is no question that the last half of my career was more rewarding than the first half. I loved the challenge of developing and implementing a lesson. My most rewarding moments would be standing and looking at a classroom of every student engaged without me. I wrote my own lessons and was very good at it. My first-half strengths of organizing information and controlling the classroom helped immensely. After all, I had been there and done that.
The last half of my career taught me how to teach. It taught me how people learn. It taught me that change can occur – especially when driven from within. Yes, it made me stubborn with teachers I encountered who held onto the past of teaching how they were taught.
I later had some years in training development for businesses. I cringed when hearing someone say, “Anyone can teach” – well, in business it’s “anyone can train!” I knew I had arrived in my new endeavor when I was disagreeing with the majority of others in the field around me. After all, I had the advantage of knowing that telling isn’t teaching, and telling isn’t training.