Warning: This is an opinion piece. Read at your own risk. Then again, most of my posts have a layer of opinion. Ah, just read it.
Analyzing standardized testing results, sitting in on random committees, chances for merit pay, summers off, goals to receive accolades, and providing students with grades do not make me thankful to be an educator. In fact, some of these items listed here can make me want to leave education, but that is not what I wanted to share. I want to share “why I am thankful,” and why I stay in education rather than flee when somedays become humdrum, tedious, and unnecessarily busy.
Like an addictive drug, students keep me here. Specifically, I love when students learn and create without direction. Sometimes the smallest comments from a teacher can inspire a student to go home and write a story, draw a picture, bring in something from home, write a blog post, create a slideshow, research a topic, create a message with an app, or send in a digital postcard with WWII paraphernalia on it. These are all moments that have “made my day” as a teacher and provided me with the motivation to continue in this sometimes emotionally draining career.
Over the last three to four years, as I have become a more digitally aware teacher, I have seen students motivated more and more to create digital products that can be shared through different online platforms. These moments rekindled my passion to teach and motivated me to do more and be more than just a 30 something year-old. I truly want to be a teacher. As a teacher, we get to see some pretty spectacular milestones in a student’s life and it is easy to overlook these moments.
Most teachers won’t receive a fancy “Teacher of the Year” accolade, but our accolades should be watching students become passionate about creating, collaborating, reflecting, and overall learning. Here are just a few times, I received recognition for my accomplishments. I just had to take the time to appreciate these moments.
When I taught fourth grade, I shared the tool Digital Vaults with students on Veteran’s Day. This was just to provide students with the knowledge that primary sources from the Library of Congress could be retrieved to research and learn about the wars some veterans served during. One of my students was a typical unmotivated learner and I was “warned” about him prior to the beginning of the year. Then one night, I thought I received spam from the Digital Vaults and deleted the email from my inbox. But, something told me to look at the message before emptying my trash. After reading the message, I realized my unmotivated learner who built a bad reputation within the school just spent his free time engaging in the curation of Digital Vault sources to create a Vietnam War poster online.
This same student, went on to publish blog posts after school and over the weekends without a cue from me. He didn’t complete a lot of his assigned homework, but he did work on projects that would awaken his appetite to create and share. Most of the time, he worked hardest on web-based projects and these moments that sparked his interest enough to try made my day as a teacher.
Most recently, in a period of two days, I received two more gifts from inspired students. The email below is from a teacher working on a PBL unit focusing on Native Americans. She is doing most of the work of course, but I think demonstrating the power of the research tool in Google Docs increased their efficiency as researchers, and they seem to be “hooked” as I work continue to work with them.
This next image displays a Google Drive share I received from a student using Edmodo. This student created a QuickTime movie recorded in Keynote. The other day, I demonstrated how to use Keynote, record a presentation, export the file as a QuickTime movie, and how to share files in Google Drive for a classroom. This was just a quick presentation. Then later that night, I received a movie presentation on American Girl Dolls. I’m not a fan of content, but I was floored by the fact that the student was inspired to capture her passion with the tools I shared. Let me say that it was a great presentation for an elementary student.
These incidents that I refer to above are most likely meaningless to the readers of this blog post. Nevertheless, they provide me with small moments of inspiration to feel like I am making a difference in a student’s life, and this is what I am thankful for as an educator. I am always thankful and appreciate when students are hooked and passionate about learning. Students learn regardless of my actions, but I think I at least had a little part to play in their cognitive growth. So as I am still stuffed like a Turkey with Thanksgiving food, I would like to say, “thank you students for creating and sharing when you’re passionate about learning.”