Thursday, May 15, 2014

Thankful Thursday: 5/15/14

[Thankful Thursday is a weekly segment that began 1/10/13 - read why here.  I invite you to join me in practicing gratitude!]

May 15 is Teacher's Day here in Korea. My day was just like any other Thursday, with the addition of a letter from a young third grade boy (written in Korean). Hence today I'm thankful for all of my past teachers. I had some great Spanish teachers in middle and high school, which kept me interested all the way through college (Had some great TAs in college, too). And that led me to two years in Spain! I had some fantastic homeroom teachers in my elementary days, as well as top-notch subject teachers in middle and high school.

I never thought teaching was easy, but after this year I can say it's a tough career, but oh so rewarding. Teachers need to be thinking about a million things at once, and paying attention to small details while stepping back to see the big picture at the same time. 

In class you've got to keep everyone engaged and focus, which isn't easy when you put 30 young kids together. There are always students who thrive from negative attention, bothering their classmates and disrupting class. Some kids are hungry, others tired, some angry, and a few might be super-energetic. (If you teach middle school you've got to deal with adolescent kids every day...) And you can't just grab the students' attention with anything, they must be learning the target objective, expanding their knowledge. Some kids' families have money for private lessons, so they could be bored and not challenged, while the student sitting next to them can't read.  You also must be able to assess each activity/lesson and the students' understanding. Do they need more practice with x? Do they understand y? Was this a good activity or does it need some tweaking before the next class starts in 10 minutes? 

You must be able to keep track of time and be flexible based on the students' moods and reactions. Perhaps you planned 10 minutes for an activity, but the students are really enjoying it and benefiting from the language practice -- add five minutes. Or maybe you thought an activity would be great, but it proves to be too difficult and you're losing them quickly -- change things up and improvise or use a back-up. 

That's just the teaching. Don't even get me started on how much time it takes to lesson plan. Coming up with ideas, and then creating the materials (PPTs, worksheets, flashcards, game boards, etc.) needed to do such activities. Many teachers must keep a grade book and write progress reports. You're also expected to please all of the parents - each with different viewpoints who are only focused on one child - so it's hard for them to realize your focus is on hundreds of children (or 20-30 for one class).

I won't go on, you get the picture. It's a demanding job with ups and downs. You're the teacher all the time, no matter where you are. I'm walking down the hall, I'm still the teacher. In the bathroom, you're the teacher. See a student out at the grocery store? You're the teacher. It's like a mini version of politicians/celebrities. You're identifiable to much of the community, even outside of school.

But being a teacher is such a wonderful opportunity. You can change a child's life. Change a mind, change a life. Encourage a student that everyone else passes off as "the bad kid" or "the slow kid", and they will respond. Teach children mindfulness early on, and set them up for a lifetime of success. Believe in your students, and they will thrive.

So thank you teachers, wherever in the world you are! I appreciate all you do to educate others. 
(And now a family shout-out to all the teachers in my family: Mother, sister, even all of the second cousins!). Happy (Korean) Teachers' Day!
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