Monday, May 30, 2011

How long till I'm an expert teacher?

I'm just making my way through Outliers for the first time (something tells me I'll be reading it again one day) and pondering Gladwell's implications for a newbie teacher. Gladwell talks about how everyone needs at least 10,000 hours of challenging, diligent practice to be an expert. If I generously include my student teaching hours and my work hours so far after graduation, I'm at a whopping 925 hours of teaching time.

Yikes. Could this be a deterrent for a potential employer? Perhaps. But what are the benefits of hiring a fresh-out-the-gates teacher? What do we have to offer students, families, and schools? What kinds of experiences do we have with educational technology and theory that characterize our pedagogy?

Just 9,075 hours to go!

Image source.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

When are you a Teacher?

I've been thinking a lot about this question recently. I just graduated from a teaching program and am now a certified Alberta teacher. But am I really a Teacher?

In recent encounters with new people, I've been asked the commonplace question, "what do you do?". I've found myself struggling with a particular answer. You see, I have a degree that says I'm a teacher but, in reality, I have not a classroom of my own or an actual teaching position. So I reply with "I'm in education". And then, the lets-get-to-the-bottom-of-this question, "oh, are you a teacher". "Well yes" I reply, "but I'm not working as a teacher right now. I'm working with special needs students in schools..." And round we go.

A kind of teacher. (image source)

So all this made me wonder, at what point can I justify calling myself a teacher?

Shouldn't the status of Teacher be reserved for those actually engaging in it on a daily basis? Those spectacular people designing activities for student learning, dealing with parents, going to meetings, thinking about the learning needs of each and every student in the class, and taking on the curriculum? I certainly engage in junior versions of many of these things now, but certainly not to the full extent of a classroom teacher. I cannot help but feel I would be devaluing what they do everyday by calling myself a teacher.

A revered teacher. (image source)

But what about the innate nature of a teacher? Surely many would argue that Ghandi was a great teacher, even though he didn't teach in schools or hold a teaching certificate. After all, are there not some people out there that are teaching that really shouldn't be? They usually know who they are, and have often ended up there for various reasons. Teaching is not for everybody. Degree or no degree, some people are just Teachers and others are not. In this sense, I am a Teacher. I should be loud and proud about replying to the question of what I do. I teach! It's hard not to feel like you're misleading someone though. God forbid they continue to question about what grade you teach...

A teacher in the making? (image source)

But then again, did I not strive for this over my 6 years of university education (and increasingly ridiculous tutition fees, I might add)? After all of that, have I not yet earned the right to call myself a Teacher? I had a dream and I fulfilled that dream! Well...I got the credentials I needed to be able to fulfill that dream. Hmmm.

Ultimately, I feel this push and pull over my changing identity. It's that sort of in limbo feeling that you can't wait to shake. A degree isn't everything, and rightly so.