Relationships are essential.
A teacher cannot be replaced with a computer or any other technology; their relationship with a student is paramount. A teacher transforms their classroom into a community of learners. They are able to build a space where risk is acceptable and encouraged and where the value of every learner is recognized. Teachers are role models and mentors; trail guides and cheerleaders; and artists of the human spirit. That relationship with a student is the foundation of all else and only when it is established can true learning take place. The time a child spends with an adult who truly cares about their development and journey cannot be replicated or replaced by technology. Technology doesn’t make a better teacher; rather it allows the teacher to transform the classroom of their imagination into a reality. The teacher is a necessary component of that reality.
Time for reflection is time well spent.
We must proceed through the work that matters with deliberate action. However, deliberate action without reflection can lead us down paths, which do not enhance our work, but hinder it. We are in danger of becoming so caught up in our work, in the destination we are trying to reach, that we forget to appreciate the journey. Reflection inspires, creates, corrects, informs, and transcends. It creates opportunities for collaboration and ultimately makes us more than we thought we were. Challenges are not dead ends, rather they are the obstacles we must face with honesty in order to become something more. If we do not take the time to reflect on the challenges we face, they become little more than a series of obstacles, which have deferred or stopped us. When we value ourselves, our journey, and our own talents then time for reflection becomes the fuel that keeps our fires alight and allows us to ignite the spark in others.
I am a professional student and my experience is valuable.
By sharing our unique paths as educators, by bringing ourselves into the classroom, by being brave enough to share our journeys and ourselves, we too are students. We lead by example and we need to acknowledge the challenges and triumphs of our unique journeys in order to grow as students. And I hope that as educators we are lifelong students. We need to value our unique skills and our unique talents just as we value those in our students and our colleagues. We cannot lead in our classrooms if we have halted our journey. Our learning need never cease. The teacher I was that first year is a pale shadow of the teacher I am today. And I sincerely hope that the teacher I am today is a pale shadow of who I will become. Because I want my journey to continue and I want that for all of you.
The journey is transformative, not the destination.
Too often we find that it is the destination we are pursuing, and that we are in a race to arrive there. Yet, the destination is just one small part of a journey, just one small facet of that path. With our eyes so focused on the finish line, we can lose sight of the journey we must each embark on. It is the journey that makes us who we are; it’s the journey that lays the architecture for all that is to come. It’s the journey that we should spend more time on. I hope that the paths of my students, colleagues, and self are long and meandering. I hope that our destinations are a long way off, because it is the journey that is the reward. It is the journey that transforms.
We teach students, not subjects.
We help students discover in themselves their unique talents and strengths. We provide them with the guidance and opportunities to learn about the world around them and to master the skills they will need to navigate the waters ahead. The vehicle we each use to make this journey varies widely. They are the topics and content we are each passionate about. It is our passion for these subjects, the relevance we place in them, and the unabashed excitement with which we pursue them that makes our students curious enough to hop in with us and go along for the ride. It is this passion, which encourages students to take a chance and journey into the unknown. This passion is necessary for excellent teaching, which makes an impact beyond the moment. How can we hope to capture a child’s imagination with the beauty of literature or the power of mathematics, if we are not enthralled with it? Yet, we must not lose sight that we are not teaching Art or Math. We are teaching the whole child the skills they need to survive in a 21st century community, everything from conflict resolution to problem solving, and how to critically examine information. We are teaching them how to navigate a dynamic world. This task may seem insurmountable, but we have the ultimate vehicle for this journey, our passion for the content we teach.
The views expressed on this site are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Pearson Foundation.
Bethany Bernasconi is the 2012 New Hampshire Teacher of the Year. After earning a BA in Biology and a MAT in Secondary Science Education, both from Boston University, she began teaching High School in 2004. She is currently the Dean of Science and Engineering at Windham High School in New Hampshire and serves on the NH ASCD Board of Directors. Her philosophy on science education is routed in her belief that students of all ages should have the opportunity to explore the world around them, and that learning science is not passive; rather, it truly requires a student to dive into the experience. By knowing her students’ unique challenges and triumphs she seeks to create a personalized classroom, a community of learners. She is an advocate for student voice in the classroom and champions the uniqueness and value of students and educators alike. Trail guide, cheerleader, student, mentor, and coach, she never loses sight that she teaches students not subjects.