Great teachers build nations. Great teachers provide the inspiration for highly engaged and effective learning. They awaken and raise our children’s expectations. Great teachers also inspire creation through tapping into students’ imaginations that lead to discovery. They shape our next generation of great decision-makers.
Let’s be clear, teaching is hard work done correctly. Most high level professions are. So again, let’s be clear teaching is a high level profession. As I reflect on my career, my choosing to be a teacher was a very deliberate choice based on the mentoring of a college professor (teacher).
My teaching career did not begin with the same story that many teachers share. I did not have an epiphany when I said to myself, “I want to be a teacher.” My journey as an educator began during my sophomore year at Purdue University when Professor Hobe Jones pulled me into his office and asked if I had ever considered teaching. When I said, “no,” he explained that he saw a talent in me for educating and wanted me to double major in Animal Science and Agricultural Education. It is amazing how someone like Dr. Jones can make a huge impact on someone’s life. His inspiration and personal interest helped me to deal with the challenges of a double major, making my 27 year educational career possible. Without Dr. Jones’ personal interest in my abilities, I probably would have missed this opportunity. It is his example of true caring that I strive to emulate every day of my teaching career.
Teaching is a high level profession and we need to become very deliberate in recruiting students into this profession. Only the best will do for our children. As Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. Tony Bennett says: “What if Indiana’s most important work was also our most valued work?” In closing I would like to share a video I was part of making with the Indiana Department of Education in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week entitled: What if? To view the video click here.
This past week I wrote a post for EDCompass Blog entitled, SMART Coaching. In this post I described how I learned from our basketball coach, Albert Hendrix, how to better differentiate instruction. I encourage you to click here to read the post because I want to go a little deeper in this post. As I reflected on the way Coach Hendrix teaches I realized he is doing what Christensen, Horn, and Johnson (2011) described as “student-centric” in Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, Expanded Edition. I had this book recommended to me by Scott Shelhart (@KD9SR) during the #TalkToTony Education Twitter Town Hall a couple of weeks ago with Dr. Tony Bennett, State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Christensen et al. (2011) discussed how our educational system is monolithic and needs to be more student-centric. By monolithic the authors mean we teach to only one learning style. Student centric means teaching to the way a student learns. Coach Hendrix teaches is a student-centric manner. By using the SWELL Classroom he is able to split the team up according to, not only different line-ups, but also the players’ knowledge of the game. Additionally, for those that are more spatial learners (need to see or visual) than kinesthetic, the triangulated SMART Boards give Coach Hendrix the ability to show players what they need to be doing.
What I learned from Coach Hendrix is that all players have specialized needs. They are all at a different starting point, have varied learning styles, and all learn at different paces. In other words, just like every student I teach. You might say every student is “differently-abled.”
During the 1800’s education was customized and student-centric by the teacher for level and pace out of necessity – all students were in one room. It is now important for us to once again become student centric. “Teachers can serve as professional learning coaches and content architects to help individual students progress – and they can be a guide on the side, not a sage on the stage” (Christensen et al., 2010).
Christensen, C.M., Horn, M.B., Johnson, C.W. (2011). Disrupting class:How disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns, expanded edition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies.