John Dewey, an education reformer, once said that “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” I believe that his words ring true in more ways than one. Dewey also brings into focus the fact that education is not simply reading what is written in a textbook or what is evaluated by an exam; it is the discovery that knowledge can be found in whatever you do and wherever you go. The role of an educator is not only to provide that fundamental education, but to encourage students to become their own teachers. I believe that this is done by giving students access to a wide variety of learning materials in the classroom that they can use to answer their questions that are not related to curriculum material.
Every person, no matter their ethnicity, age, or socio-economic status deserves an education. Not only do they deserve an education, but they deserve a learning environment that will foster a life-long thirst for knowledge and the skills needed to quench that thirst. They deserve to feel encouraged, safe, and challenged by their teachers and peers. It is experience that shapes us, and a successful educator is one that creates in their students a passion to learn from those events. I believe that these events are created by providing hands-on learning experiences and through problem and project-based learning models that get students physically involved and engaged with the learning process. At The Cooper School, I have found the environment that truly allows me to do this.
One of my goals as an educator is to find what makes each of my students passionate, what they are interested in, and incorporate it into the classroom. This can be accomplished through providing students materials that allow them to learn more about their interests and giving the students options so that they can be creative with assignments and connect them to those interests. One of my goals for my students is that they become independent learners. As I walk around my classroom and see students reach for books that reflect their personalities and passions, get to choose research projects that appeal to them, and play creatively with their classmates, I know that I have found an environment that allows me to become the teacher I always dreamed of being.
A recent scenario where I got to see how my passion for education has influenced my students revolves around Mountains. The week before, I’d given a lesson on how mountains are made. I brought in one of my favorite reference books, an Atlas, and was just flipping through the maps with a small group of students gathered around me. After looking at the continental United States, one of the students asked to see Alaska, so I flipped to Alaska and there we saw the Aleutian Islands. Another student pointed to the islands and asked, “Is that where two plates are meeting?” Questions, and the opportunities where they get to be asked, is the reason I teach!