Saturday, October 25, 2008

Welcome. Namaste. This blog's birth has been the longest gestation, ever. I believe this life is education, in multitudinous forms, for evolution into the highest form of our Self, whatever that means. The definition of which is as numerous as the people, the grains of sand, and the flap of bird wings on this planet. It is these observations and moments that I intend to share here.

One of my roles, this moment, is to teach high school students, which offers an easy starting point. Here is my philosophy (a recycling of an education essay) on teaching:

The most important qualities of an outstanding educator may slip through the confines of a one-dimensional resume; they become clouded and weightless when reduced to mere adjectives. If I had a thesaurus I would scatter words like eleemosynary, scintillating, and implacable across the page to create a colorful web of teaching strengths; instead, I will relegate myself to the simplicity of three words, compassion, thoroughness and persistence, to paint the perfect teacher.
To have compassion does not mean to merely feel sorry for someone. In fact the crux of compassion is the desire to alleviate the suffering, or the burden from someone; to be so sensitized that one’s focus shifts from the pain to the removal of pain. In terms of teaching, an outstanding teacher does not confine her attention to the student’s deficiency, but rather to the removal of it. It is through this filter that a teacher diagnoses, addresses and strives to correct the weakness or to remove the insecurity from her students. A compassionate teacher accepts the whole child, socially, emotionally, and intellectually, as part of her charge. She does not shrink from the responsibility, nor does she assume the burden; rather she guides the child through, instilling confidence and strength along the way. A compassionate teacher sees the potential in front of her and commits to its fulfillment.
It is not enough, however, to be compassionate; a teacher must also be thorough. Thorough? Yes, thorough. In today’s classrooms there is a plethora of learning styles and disabilities, a brigade of standardized tests, and more pairs of eyes and ears filling desks than there has ever been before. In order to balance IEPs, PSSAs, SATs, ADD/ADHD, creative writing, divorces, school newspaper, make-up tests, gerunds, analytical writing, student enjoyment and proficiency, a teacher must know where her ship and all her passengers are headed, at all times. She must be thorough in the execution of her lessons, her feedback, her follow up, her paperwork and her support of her students. It is not enough to enjoy teaching; one must also be effective at it.
One last critical component of an exemplary teacher appears when all else fails: persistence. The truth in “try, try, trying again” is grounded in teaching. A teacher may be empathetic and have all of her “i’s” and “t’s” appropriately aligned, but if her students are not picking up what she is putting down, it does not make a difference. Persistence wears many hats in the educational world. Creativity lies in persistence; determination and integrity make their home there too. Persistence is what makes a good teacher great; it is what lingers long after the lesson has faded.
To the naked eye, a teacher is but three adjectives. She is compassionate. She is thorough. She is persistent. But to the students whom she helps, words do not suffice.

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