I’ve answered this question a lot, and the way it’s phrased varies depending on who’s doing the asking. Family members and friends usually preface their question by saying, “I don’t know how you do it.” Students ask, and it’s often framed as “Miss, why do you teach US?”
This year, I’m co-teaching with my best friend (who posted her teaching vision statement on her blog last year), and part of our community building is to share our vision statements with our shared class.
Admittedly, I balked at first. I figure students will learn soon enough why I’m here and what my hope is for them. Plus, I am not the touchy-feely sort of teacher (or person, really), as will become evident when you read my statement. Also, whenever I hear “vision statement,” my brain goes two ways. I think of a vision quest, which is awesome; but then I also think of nasty educorporations that want to vision statement their way into schools and take them over. So the connotation of the “vision statement” phrase is an interesting and conflicted one for me.
At any rate, I wrote one to share with my students. And since sometimes I do post about teaching on here, I figured it was the perfect time to share with the world in general why I teach. So, without any further ado, here is why I teach.
You know, it’s funny. I sat down to write this, and I really struggled. I have these grand ideas about teaching, but it’s hard to write them in a way that makes sense. The other thing is, YOU need to have grand ideas about being a student, and what you want to do with your life, not just as a student now, but also in your future.
This means many things, but I’ll only discuss a few.
For me, this means I am here for you as your teacher, mentor, and support. I will teach you, I will support you, and I will (sometimes) give you advice. It may be crazy advice, or you may think, “Seriously? All of the adults say the same thing!” Well, it’s because a lot of us have been there, done that, and we refuse to write the book, blog, tweet, or Facebook post about it because we don’t want kids to have any ammunition when it comes to saying, “But YOU did it, so why can’t I?” My theory is you can go ahead and do it—take risks (which is SO IMPORTANT IN LEARNING, so there’s that), make mistakes, etc.—as long as you learn from it, and as long as you do whatever you do with respect for yourself and others. All sarcasm aside, feelings matter. When you step in my room, I WILL take everything about you as a PERSON into consideration, INCLUDING your feelings, because I want you to feel like you belong; to me, you already do belong. If you’re on my roster, you’re in my heart. There, I’ve said it. Just please don’t try to hug me.
What it means for you to have grand ideas about being a student is that you want to be here, and so you act like it. It means you have big plans for your future, and you are going to (respectfully) steamroll anyone or anything that gets in your way. It means that you know I’m here for you, and you know it’s my job to teach you and do everything I can to support you and help you succeed. It means that you are not afraid to take risks because you know that to accomplish things in school and in LIFE, you take risks. Even Facebook demigod Mark Zuckerberg said so: “The biggest risk is not taking any risk…In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” And, since I am a literary ninja, I will also tell you that author Paulo Coelho stresses the importance of risks: “You have to take risks. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.” (You should read his book The Alchemist. It’s good.) Most importantly, as you are my student, I want you to feel safe taking risks in my classroom. If you need something in particular from me to help you feel safe, comfortable, and at home in our space, do not hesitate to tell me. The exception, of course, is daily hugs. There are CERTAIN TIMES when hugs are appropriate. If you are not my family, “every day” is not one of those times.
Ultimately, the vision I have for you in my heart is that you will leave this classroom fearless and prepared to take on the world, take risks, and chase your dreams.
Remember: You’re on my roster, you’re in my heart. Now let’s get to work.
Update: You can see student responses here.