Why we do what we do.....(and what great teachers and hamsters have in common)

I am lucky enough to have a wonderful student-teacher helping me in the art room for the next couple of months. Her residency in my art room is her last stop before she becomes a formal, certified art teacher. Having her here with me daily has made me really think through how to put into words all I do in my classroom in order to be able to give her the best advice about the profession.

I heard the news last night about the passing of Steve Jobs. In trying to grasp the impact of this man on our collective lives, I ran across a speech he gave at a Stanford graduation in 2005. In this speech he imparts onto graduates many 'golden nuggets' of life; one of them being that you can only ever be great at doing something you really love to do. That is the number one advice I think all young people should walk away knowing about their future; only loving what you do will bring you true greatness. I included this video below so that you can walk away with some other words of wisdom.

This week in my room I have a special pet hamster occupying my classroom. His name is Hamsty and a family at the school I work at has lent her to the art class so that the 'hamster playground' the 1st grade students designed and created could be 'tested' out. The great thing about hamsters is that they make use of everything you place in their cage. One could lay a paper towel tube in the cage and walk away. Several hours later you come back and this tube has been chewed apart and turned into bedding, or kept intact and being used as a cozy bed quarter. Great teachers do the same thing. Every single experience I have ever been through relating to schools, good, bad, great or horrid is used to make us better teachers.

Walking in every morning I know I do not want to be my like my high school social studies teacher who so obviously had her 'favorites' and would blatantly ignore the rest of us who did not 'get history'. Walking in every morning I know I want to carry with me a little of Mr. Gordon (5th grade) with me for always treating each one of us respectfully. When I interact with my students daily, I know I do not want to be like my 6th grade teacher, whose name thankfully I don't remember, and who openly mocked my writing in front of my peers. Last, I absolutely want to be like my amazing college professor and advisor who, after 23 years of feeling 'never smart enough', showed me that in fact, I was a learner after all. She gave me the gift of confidence.

These great teachers we have all been fortunate enough to been inspired by are also the very ones that are always changing, always evolving, always trying to be better than yesterday. In my personal opinion, self-reflectiveness and this magical sense of resourcefulness in using one's life lessons to inform our pedagogy is the main aspect that connects all amazing teachers. The level of mindfulness and the intense thoughtfulness to the 'hows' and the 'whys' of how we might speak to our students, and the words we choose when we address them; all adds to what makes these great teachers so amazing.

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