October 5, 2016

What Did Teaching Teach You?

Teachers are learners, too—and time spent leading a classroom can be a life-changing experience.

It’s no secret that teachers have the power to transform their students’ lives. But talk to any educator, and they will tell you that teaching has affected their lives as well.

In celebration of World Teachers’ Day, six EDC staff members who are former teachers share their thoughts about how teaching has forever changed them and their approach to learning.

Look for special qualities

Kirsten Peterson

“Teaching taught me to look for the special qualities that each person brings to a learning experience. Every single student makes sense of the world in a unique way. I never see teaching as being about subject matter; it is about being able to help people find and see their strengths, and to help point them in a direction that maximizes their potential.”

Celebrating small wins

Adam Chu

“Teaching taught me to be flexible, to adapt, and to always have a back pocket idea to use as an emergency parachute. Teaching also taught me to celebrate small wins—even if it took forever to get there.”

Supporting students’ performance

Rebecca Pagel

“Teaching taught me to be gentle with people. Poor performance on a paper might be the result of not working hard, but it also might be the result of a student’s problems at home or with friends, the process of learning, or confidence. Teaching taught me to search for the real cause and the real need behind a student’s outward performance and actions.”

Students are diverse

Rebecca Lewis

“Teaching taught me that students’ needs, experiences, and knowledge are so diverse that there is no way to plan and deliver a lesson exactly as planned. I learned that any curriculum needs to be adaptable to teachers’ own circumstances, and that programs need to leave room for students’ own thoughts and ideas.”

Great teachers care

Tony Streit

“Teaching taught me how humbling and rewarding it can be to work with young people. I’ve directed live television and had to speak before hundreds of people, but nothing is quite as intimidating as trying to get through to a room full of high school students. Great teachers care, prepare, and are honest with their students. It can be extremely hard for an educator to say, ‘I have absolutely no idea,’ but sometimes that’s the just the right answer.”

The power of relationships

Mary Burns

“Teaching taught me that contributing to the development of a young person is the most amazing and daunting responsibility one can ever have. It taught me how hard and complex good teaching really is. You have to consciously work on it every single moment of your career!

“Teaching also taught me about the tremendous power of human relationships. Children attach to us. You must always be careful, measured, and kind because what you do or say can impact a child forever.”