I just learned that my mother, a retired teacher with a 35-year career in elementary and middle-school classrooms, was a guest on Episode 14 of The Teaching Experience Podcast!
In the interview, my mom talks about her lifelong love of teaching and learning, her devotion to teaching each student according to the context of that student’s life and abilities, her near-burnout under the strain of political rather than pedagogical demands placed on teachers but also her reinvigoration through empowering her students in the classroom.
I grew up in the midst of all of this, helping my mom prepare her classrooms each year and helping her mimeograph (remember those?) assignments and using her teaching materials to play “school” with my stuffed animals and my siblings, and later visiting my mom’s classroom as a guest and watching her work with her students. I’ve learned my teaching styles from a long succession of my own former teachers, but I learned first and most from my mother, and, most crucially, she taught me how to learn about teaching by observing teachers.
Today, I teach college, not elementary school, and I’ve only been at it half as long as my mother was. But a lot of my attitudes and practices in the classroom come from her: my enthusiasm for the profession even in the face of sometimes overwhelming extracurricular demands, my desire to listen and to reach each student on that student’s terms, my insistence on empowering students to take command of their own learning, my love of learning about learning and my love of sharing the whole educational experience with students.
I have always been proud to follow in my mother’s footsteps. But whenever I see my mother getting long-deserved recognition for her career, I fill to bursting.
And thanks, too — as we wrap up the fall and head into our long winter naps — to all the teachers everywhere for the hard, hard work you do and for the inspiration you provide.