Slice of Life Tuesday: My teaching philosophy – summed up in two Tweets

Slice of Life Tuesday is hosted by Two Writing Teachers

I’m a week into the new school year, a time of excitement, trepidation, and exhaustion. It always takes a few weeks to regain teaching stamina, and I’m not even close to being there yet.

The new Smithlings are settling into life in our classroom: we know each other’s names, we share our stories, we chime into discussions about reading and writing and politics, and we laugh.  I love the laughter…it will see us through the year, it will be among what we  remember best.

I’m slowly learning about the children I have the privilege of teaching this year – it’s a watchful, close listening time for me, a time of observing small gestures and quick glances, for there is so much to be learned about my kids by simply being quiet and listening to them.

My slice of life today is really anchored by two Tweets.  I came across each of them at the end of my block teaching time, when my kids had left the classroom but echoes of our time together were still reverberating in our space.  At times like this, I sometimes feel a sense of panic: the work of a school year is so enormous, the responsibility of being part of what shapes a child’s progress as a learner and as a person is so great.  Am I up to this task? And what is it that I truly want to accomplish as an educator – beyond just “the skills”.

So, these Tweets spoke to that sense of panic:

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Yes, what my kids need to know from me is that I am here for ALL of them – I choose to teach ALL of them: no labeling, no sidelining, no ignoring.  Each child deserves to feel that she has a place in our learning community, each child deserves to know that I’ve got his back.

And this:

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I happened to see this Tweet after a particularly wrenching discussion about Charlottesville.  My students had many questions and opinions, but mostly they were scared and wanted some form of reassurance that the world is still a good place.  Listening to them, I was reminded of the words of Anne Frank: “It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”  Children want to know that good is good, and evil is evil, and that the grownups they trust will work to ensure that it stays that way.   To care about what I am saying and what they are getting from what I am saying…that’s part of my work, too.

I found these messages reassuring and empowering – they helped anchor my teaching thinking in these early days.  For that I am grateful.



15 thoughts on “Slice of Life Tuesday: My teaching philosophy – summed up in two Tweets

  1. As always you capture so perrfectly the essence of these moments in time. I continue to struggle these first weeks with my stamina and energy. So eager to do so much but I also find my energy levels slowing me down. As I read your reflection I think of the individuals in my classroom this year. Each and every child needs me in a different way and although their needs are diverse and my day demanding, what I see most is their eagerness to learn and grow. Each individual in my classroom deserves to be supported in their learning and I will continue to advocate for them and care for them. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and reflections.

  2. Wow. I am so glad I came across your post tonight! Obviously, I am late with responding to other slicers. First, I love your third paragraph – the close listening, the observation of glances and small gestures! I wish all educators would take time to do this! I believe it is probably very powerful for you and am impressed that you know it is a very important thing to be quiet and listen – especially given the enormity of the pressure you obviously feel to to the very best you can for your students. Secondly, I love you talk about the emptiness of the room but the reverberation of your time together is is present in the space. Just from this short post, I know the children you have been given and will teach, all of them, are very lucky indeed. Wow.

  3. Well said, and something that might be good for aspiring teachers to read, that “all” of the children deserve the teaching. I just read & shared a book yesterday with this theme, titled “Most People”. You will like it, and it really does echo your words about the students and their needs after Charlottesville. Cheers, Tara!

  4. At times I think about what has sustained me all these years in education, and it really is that I prefer the company of teens to that of most adults. I have some low skilled kids in my AP Lit class, which is already low in numbers. As I read their first essays, my only thought was, “this is where they are, and all I can do is work w/ each one to improve their skills.” The good news is we’ll all marvel at their progress in May. It’s something to look forward to.

  5. Tara, I saw the tweet you mentioned, “You better like kids.” And I have to say that my love of the kids is what kept me going through the tough times. People always wonder how I could be a middle school teacher and my best reply was always, “I love my students and love being with them.”

  6. Thank you for sharing these words. Thank you for being that person that young people can look to. To be there for them. To be there with ideas, and hopes, and beliefs that this world and the people are and can be good. That is the goal. That is why we teach.

  7. The kids are sustaining me through this rough schedule I carry. Those two messages spoke to me. It’s so important for us teachers to remember we are about the students, who they are, what they hear, and how they feel.

  8. Teaching is such an awesome responsibility. The Smithlings are so fortunate to have you in their lives. I look forward to learning from you again this year — I love “being” in your classroom. My hope is to actually get there some day!

  9. These two tweets also spoke to me. I’ll be sharing them with my pre-service teachers. They are struggling right now with reconciling their ideals with what seems like grim reality (especially typical administrative hoops to jump through that may not be in the best interest of kids) and I hope these quotes will inspire and sustain them.

  10. Your words and these tweets remind of us what an awesome responsibility it is to teach all children, especially the difficult ones. You are a role model for us all in how you approach your new charges…quietly, respectfully, and with a focus on learning as much as you can about them. I can hear the sound of laughter in your room and hope it lasts the whole year through.

  11. I appreciate both tweets and of course, your thoughtful post. As a mom, i appreciate the thoughtfulness and respect you show students. Most of al though, I marvel at how deeply you simply love the children.

  12. Thank you. Tara, you continue to remind me of the most important work we do as teachers. It affirms my own beliefs and gives me the strength to believe them always, and especially when things are difficult.

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