Carolism #1: Keep learning — being a student makes you the best educator
Next time it rains, put a bucket outside and collect the water. Only—leave it. Check back every so often and you’ll find that the water doesn’t quite look like water anymore. In fact, it’s no longer transparent. It starts to pollute itself and collect bugs and debris. That’s what happens to teachers when they stop learning. They get stale.
When a teacher goes into a class, the students need to see your excitement. When you really look at it, teaching is unlike any other job out there. If you work in an office, you might have an hour to yourself before a late-morning meeting—a chance to collect yourself, read your emails and wake up. Teachers are “on” immediately. When those students walk in the door, it’s up to you to teach, entertain and answer questions.
I meet with educators on a regular basis. Sometimes I’m just an ear to hear personal venting, and that’s OK, but many times I’m privileged to get a room full of eager students who all happen to be educators. I’m in awe when I see people who’ve been teaching for 20 years wanting to learn new delivery styles, how to teach to various age groups, how to adapt lesson plans to different learner styles and other methodology-type training. Great teachers know when they need to be the student.
Why it’s important for educators to keep learning
■ Motivation. Watch a TED talk when you get home, read an inspirational book or find a local/national conference—but you need to be doing something to build your motivation. It’s tough to motivate a classroom full of people day after day. Isn’t it possible that you need the same?
■ Networking. Sometimes you may feel like you’re on an island—but you’re not. I chair an educator’s alliance where we plan several events throughout the year. It’s amazing how I see the same individuals in attendance year after year. I often think they should be teaching me. But I know why they’re there. Yes, it’s to learn something new, but for the most part they want the connection of other educators. They want to know that someone across the country is also having a hard time with attendance. They want to know that this career is important and that others care as much as them.
■ Technology is moving fast. I remember when the flipchart replaced the chalkboard, when the whiteboard replaced the flipchart, when the overhead replaced the whiteboard and when Power Point replaced the overhead. Your students are on social media and smart phones—how are you connecting to them? Learning how to use technology in the classroom has to be learned. Don’t use your ignorance as an excuse. You owe it to your students to stay up on current trends.
■ Leadership and business skills. You don’t have to teach accounting to know the importance of balancing a checkbook. You already have a job, so why learn how to build a resume in the 21st century? Brushing up on life skills is important when you’re a mentor to students. You’re molding the minds of future professionals. Don’t short them by only teaching to the textbook. Being well-rounded in multiple areas will help you answer questions effectively.
■ World events. If you’re in fashion, you need to know what coming. If you’re in politics, you need to know what boycotts took place this past weekend. Educators need to know what’s new and happening in the field they teach. Know what the job market is, the different career paths your students can make and current news that could impact that trade.
Never underestimate the power of an educator!
Photo Credit: Ryan M. Walsh at 2013 CEA Annual Convention