The Joy of Teaching

There is inherent joy in teaching. With the widely advertised challenges facing public school teachers today, finding that joy may appear to be a difficult path for exploration. But teaching can be an act of community involvement on the part of any one of us and not just the traditional career move. In either case teaching is one of the most important commitments a person can make.

A national system of public education has been a cornerstone of our strong, wholesome American society. “The skills that we are trying to teach children in partnership with parents and extended families are absolutely critical to the success of the child, and the success of this nation”, says Judith Burdack, Teacher, Hillsborough County School District. Accomplishment, giving back, fulfilling the social contract – these are all joys found in the lifestyle and the profession of teaching, no matter what the obstacles.

Discovering the Joy of Teaching – Where to Look

Developmental participation

Participation in the development of youngsters – and other members of the community – is a fruitful joy, ripe for the picking for those who choose to teach. Cara Moroze, part-time flute teacher and a communications specialist, recites how working with children musically brought her joy. “Being able to take those students and teach them how to read music, how to enjoy the process of learning to play and how to enjoy the expression of music – that brought me joy”, says Ms. Moroze. There is an emotional connection when you see that look on your student’s face that tells you they finally grasp what you are instilling in them. At that moment they have an expression born of happiness, accomplishment and release.

Making the breakthrough

Another happy moment comes when successfully teaching someone who feels that they can’t learn, that certain concepts are out of their reach. Because someone was there to help, maybe you, someone who knew how to reach him or her, they start to realize that feeling is wrong. They start to learn that impossible thing. This provides them and you with great satisfaction.

In some cases the student is a child still in school who has had a few years of bad grades or getting into trouble, or both. They never understood their homework, so they never got it done. They got discouraged and accepted the idea that they weren’t smart enough. Then someone works with the child and he or she begins to feel that the things they couldn’t learn before are now within reach.

This discovery – that learning is possible – is even more remarkable when teaching adults. “We show them some little techniques that work with the way their brains learn and they’re free. There’s nothing that compares to that as far as I’m concerned”, says Mariaemma Pelullo-Willis, Learning Success Coach.

Giving the gift of knowledge

Another joy is the gift of giving through teaching. There will always be someone who needs you, someone who needs something from you. The question for those who would teach is whether teaching is the way for them to give. For many the answer is yes.

Receiving

“You teach best what you most need to learn”, said Richard Bach, philosopher. Educational environments, whether they involve several or just two people, keep the teacher sharp, educated and alive. “Depending on the subject matter you are teaching, it constantly reminds you of at least the fundamentals of your profession or the area you have an interest in”, says Mike Paul, Adjunct Professor of Communications and Marketing at both NYU and Columbia University.

Enjoying the presence of the young

When teaching children, a lot of the fulfillment is just in being with them. If one has a natural desire to make life better for children, they can fill a child’s life with so much. “When you make a child’s life a little happier you are also making yourself a little happier because you are able to imprint some good things in a child”, says Ms. Burdack.

In What Roles in Society Can People Be Teachers?

Volunteer

People can find the joy of teaching in volunteerism. “There are not enough hands-on skills going around. With budgetary cuts we [school systems] need to have partnerships with organizations, with private individuals, with the corporate world, in order to enhance education for our children in this country”, says Ms. Burdack.

Teach by being yourself

The role of teacher doesn’t have to come with academic qualifications or constraints. People can be teachers in any positive role in society. Whatever your profession, you are an expert in that arena. You can teach the skill that you know. “Just by being a mentor to someone in your community whether it is someone young or old, you can be a teacher. I don’t even mean educational subjects either, just the building blocks of life”, says Mr. Paul. Some things that are taken for granted, which most people do habitually, are the very same things that others have no foundation in.

One can teach parent to child, leader to community, tutor or role model to student. You can enjoy the feeling of steering kids in the right direction. You can do this for kids and adults who don’t have any other guidance or recourse. “It can be done by calling up a school and saying I would like to help. An hour a week is all that is needed”, says Dr. Erika Karres, ED.D.

Examples of Unique Teaching Methods

Some teaching methods, like that of famed doctor and teacher Maria Montessori, involve the entire process of academics and mentoring in a unique and successful philosophy. The Montessori Method of teaching for example involves motivated learning through environmental stimuli.

A slightly more singular method than Montessori but with some comparisons is Differentiated Learning. This method allows teachers to instruct as many as 30-some children in a single setting. Children today have different learning styles and lifestyles; they can still be taught in a group using Differentiated Learning. In Differentiated Instruction as it is also called each student within a single class can have tailored instruction as to the content, process, products and learning environment of the subject matter at hand. “This differentiated strategy of moving children along really opens up the opportunity for the teacher to be very creative in presenting curriculum. It’s the scope and the sequence of curriculum”, says Ms. Burdack.

Mike Paul teaches a course called Crisis Sports PR. The course is directed at public relations that deals with athletes going through public crises, frequently of a nature aggravated by a lack of life skills. “They are having problems off the field. Some of the basic things like writing checks, balancing their own check book, knowing how to love a woman without getting upset and leaving or beating her up, some of the things that others take for granted, they are struggling with – drugs, dependency on other things. It’s quite bad”, says Mr. Paul.

What Can People Without Prior Teaching Experience Do to Get Involved?

Programs and opportunities

Seek opportunities proactively. Check the local school districts; see what they need done. People can get involved alone, in pairs, in groups or as organizations. “Go to a school district and say, hey, we have X number of people who would like to get involved in, let’s say, a literacy program; how can we help?”, says Ms. Burdack.

Examine your passions

Choose something you are already very passionate about. If you do this, you will enjoy teaching it whenever the opportunity arises. Then, find out where and how you can teach it. “[The flute] was always something that I was passionate about. If you want to teach something that you are passionate about then you will enjoy teaching it. Perhaps it’s something as simple as teaching adults how to read or helping young children. If you don’t like what you are teaching then your students will recognize that and there won’t be this two way experience of enjoyment”, says Ms. Moroze.

This generation is in a great position to give back to society and the world through teaching. It doesn’t have to be through a gift of academic learning. It can be taking a successful aspect of your life and sharing it with just one other person. “There are a lot of people that feel that they don’t have anything to give, they are not an expert in anything. How can I be a teacher; I’m not qualified. You’re qualified by the example that you’ve lived in your life. There is a slice of your life where you know you are doing well and you feel comfortable with it. Try and give back to somebody else by teaching”, says Mr. Paul. Students in the academic world are more often seeking teachers with real world experiences. Don’t think that your experiential knowledge is undesirable or will go to waste. University and college department heads and presidents are learning that “the demand out there is for professors who have practical experience”, says Mr. Paul.

You can call up a school and ask to be matched with a program, a group of people or a single student. You can teach or tutor them in person or by email. “You can do the same with youth groups in the community. You can start a mentoring group yourself. You can easily contact your city officials and join the commissions or the groups set aside to work for and with youngsters. There are always troubled youngsters in the community. You can volunteer. Civic groups usually also have an education committee”, says Dr. Karres.

Sidebar

Education specialist and published author, Erika Karres, ED.D., has identified 10 joys of teaching. Which of these joys would entice you to teach?

1. The broad range of influence teachers have, now and on future generations.

2. An artistic aspect. Teaching is the most creative of all the professions because every student is a puzzle with unlimited potential, which a teacher can put together by finding the best solution for the student’s learning style.

3. Teaching connects us to history because we transmit knowledge that’s been accumulated over two millennia and more. The skills and subjects we teach now will continue for the next millennia and beyond.

4. Plain creativity alone beyond the arts. All of us are creative and in teaching we can be our most creative selves each and every day.

5. Teaching puts you directly at the fountain of young people. Think of American youth or the youth of the world as this new stream of water coming in. You are always right there with the latest examples of mankind and get to see them up close. It keeps you young; it keeps you hopping. Teachers never get jaded and old because they are always right there when a new bunch of kids comes into the classroom.

6. You get to change society for the better. Whatever seems to be the problem of the century or decade you get a chance to roll up your sleeves and dig in to help fix it.

7. The actual performance of teaching is so rewarding. The sense of fulfillment you get hour after hour after hour. It’s not a cold thing; you’re not dealing with figures and numbers. You have these exciting faces looking back at you.

8. It’s so productive. At the beginning of the year your students are at one level of knowledge and at the end of the year they have jumped, they have made gains. This increase in knowledge is the production that only you have been able to pull off. So you can measure it, which is wonderful – when you can measure what you have accomplished.

9. Teaching is the opposite of corporate greed. You are giving from the heart. You are in a sense putting these kids way ahead of yourself, and their learning ahead of yourself. You are involved in an unselfish act.

10. You open doors to everyone in your classroom. That means that you are at the portal or the gate of the best of mankind. It deals with motivation and striving because that’s what you instill each day because you believe that every child can have wonderful strengths and can really become an outstanding student and that the doors are wide open and you help them through.

About the Author

David Geer writes for national and international publications like Computerworld, certain IEEE Computer Society publications and dozens more. E-mail him at David@GeerCom.com, call him at 440-964-9832 or visit his Web site at www.GeerCom.com

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