I am 47 years old, and only a second year teacher. I began my high school teaching career after 30 years of other jobs. I don’t know as much about teaching high school as those teachers who completed a four year college program, but I know a whole lot of other stuff. All that other stuff adds up to a lot of knowledge to apply to the classroom. What specifically can I offer as an older but inexperienced teacher?
I know what matters in life. I know that relationships and knowledge are much more important that possessions and position. I know that the things I did as a teenager shaped my adult life. I know that what I learned in algebra and world history and music classes helped me in my jobs, and I can tell you how. I know that the experiences I had with all kinds of diverse people helped develop the character I have now. I recognize the mistakes I made, and I understand my regrets. I’ve had a lot of successes in my life just because I tried to do something. I have learned a lot, so I know how to learn. I know that everything I do today affects the rest of my life.
I know that our world is interconnected, and that both personal history and world history are joined. What happened before can happen again, and we need to study the past in order to prepare for the future.
I know that I am an adult now, not a “young person”. I am a teacher, a professional, a leader. I am not in the classroom to be friends with the students. So if they don’t like me, or don’t think I’m cool, I am good with that. I learned this because early on I realized my own children didn’t need more friends, they needed a mother. A mother who was friendly, yes, but who wasn’t afraid to assert authority. I want to be that kind of teacher, too.
I am old enough that I know I am not all that cool, and I’m cool with that. My clothes are more comfy than chic, my hair-style is simple. I’m not trying to get approval from the students in my class – they don’t have to like me, they just have to respect me. Still, that inner-teenager in me wants to think they do like me. At least I get a lot of “Hey Ms. Denney” in the halls. I’m young enough to want to be liked.
When you’ve lived longer you have more stories. I like to share stories about myself with my students. I tell students about my personal experiences, or the experiences of people I know. High school students like stories about people. Even an active teenager-filled classroom quiets down for a good story.
I know that when I share my stories, I encourage listeners to think about their own stories. We need our students to understand their past stories, and to think about their present stories. More importantly, we must work to help them believe their future stories are positive adventures just waiting to begin.
History students learn that stories about individuals come together to form histories about whole cultures. English students learn to see stories as the foundations for literature. If a child wants to hear more stories, they must learn to read, and I’ll help them do that. If a child wants to tell their own story, they must learn to write. I’ll help them do that, too.
I know that my own history, and all that I’ve learned, have come together to create a good teacher. Everything that happens now is another chapter in my story book.