I have this memory of my early days in teaching. My student teaching supervisor said my lesson was “All wrong.” She felt there was far too much talking and movement in the room. I went home crushed. I had failed. The room wasn’t silent like my Harry Wong book suggested. She suggested I “stick to the textbook a bit more.”
There was no encouragement to follow my intuition, to be myself, or to find my own “flow” as a teacher. Instead, I was presented with an array of tools, like the Madeline Hunter lesson plan and forms that reminded me to tell kids what to learn then test them to see if they remembered it. Ironically, the same “game” of school I had to learned to play as a kid was presenting itself to me as a teacher, and I was the one being encouraged to run it.
There was no room for creativity.
I wish someone, somewhere along the way had stopped me and said, “What do you think?” I wish someone in my student teaching had tossed a textbook in the trash can and gone all Dead Poet’s Society on me. I wish someone had said that doing things differently would cause waves, even cause people to dislike you for a variety of reasons. And most of all, I wish someone had said, “Be yourself anyway, because THAT is what kids and your colleagues need.”
Education doesn’t need billions of identical teachers doing identical things in identical ways. Education needs YOU. It needs ME. It needs the crazy mismatched unique patchwork of people that make up a school. It needs people who speak quietly and people who shout. It needs people who love to learn in a hands on way and people who love to take notes. It needs them all. Because it’s only in that fiber of differences that we are able to reach each and every single kid who passes through our doors.
Most of all? It needs people who have the courage to follow their hearts, dreams, goals, and desires to be exactly who they are, no matter what. And that would have been a great tip in my early days of teaching. But nevertheless, a great tip that’s never too late to learn.