I was an adult student, attending college in all of my seriousness, so eager to learn everything there was to know on how to be a teacher. I wanted to be good, great even, and I studied, and I planned, and I reflected my little heart out. And then I graduated, got my first teaching job and realized that I had very little idea of what it meant to really be a teacher.
So what I didn’t learn in college is really quite a lot. I didn’t learn how to gain my students’ trust, interest or even attention. Instead I learned systems of control, of management, of planning that would force students to listen. I didn’t learn how to teach a child that consistently gets 5 hours of sleep every night because of parent job situation and therefore puts his head down on his desk every day. I learned that that child better pay attention to me because that is what children are spposed to do.
I didn’t learn how to care about my students, this was meant to be a given, and not taken for granted. I didn’t learn how to strip away all the layers and show the true meaning of the lessons being taught. I didn’t learn to adapt at the start of a tantrum or the twist of an interesting conversation. I didn’t learn to love them all, no matter their roughness or demeanor.
I didn’t learn to change myself, to be humble, and to realize that this journey is not about my teaching but the students’ learning. I didn’t learn that there are at least five different ways to explain something, or in my case, at least twenty, because every student explains it their own perfect way. I didn’t learn that often the simplest idea, lesson, or decision can make for the most meaningful moments.
I didn’t learn how to be great, or even how to be good. I learned how to save paper, be efficient, and to plan, plan, and plan some more. I learned how to find sources, and ask for help, but not who to ask it of. I learned how to plan for the fictitious child with special needs, the unplannable, or even the out there. And so there are many things I didn’t learn in college but I am not so sure you can. Teaching has to be experienced to be learned, not just read about, discussed and debated.
A great teacher is not something you are just taught to be in college, pushed to be through test scores, or coached to become through observations, it is something you become through your experience, reflection, and everyday life. I wish, I had been taught that in college.