Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Kids Are Not Cookies

I spent last night meeting and talking to teachers of the year from states all over the country in my opening event for teacher of the year program. As I went back to my room I reflected my first impressions as well as the vigorous conversations.

Throughout the evening I met passionate and dedicated teachers. I know that is a phrase tossed around pretty loosely and many people roll their eyes when they hear it. However, I truly mean it. I was speaking with a teacher from Ohio who essentially started his own school within a public school system on many of the same foundations of learning that good teachers believe in. Another fascinating conversation was with the teacher of the year from Alaska and the struggles of teaching in a rather remote environment. I was also pumped to meet the teacher from Italy who taught military students overseas in a region that my class read about in a novel. All of these stories and many more showed me the true passion these individuals have in their jobs on a daily basis. It was incredibly encouraging knowing the number of like-minded teachers out there. I also love hearing different perspectives and a way of looking at teaching and learning in a variety of classroom settings.

If I took anything away from my discussions last night, it is that we cannot take a cookie cutter approach to teaching and learning. Yes, student’s success in the classroom is determined by a teacher’s ability to teach. However, to deny home life, background knowledge, life experience, cultural uniqueness, geographic considerations or the whole host of other factors in a child’s life is a failure to see them as a whole child. In the handful of discussions I had last night, it really brought to light my belief that we cannot standardize education on a massive scale. Just hearing the variety of stories and nuances within each of these teacher’s communities was eye opening as well and left me with a question. Why would my approach to teaching a suburban child in Illinois be the same as a teacher working with a remote village of children in Alaska? Even within my own classroom, I have a range of variables that impact every child differently. The kids across the country are not cookies and yet I feel as though we are trying to force them to be…
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