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The Week After Teacher Appreciation Week

I’m not knocking it—we had a whole week when everyone in the country honored teachers. But that was last week. I’d like to suggest that for the next 51 weeks, we find ways to continue to remind people of what good teachers do.

Perhaps a good place to start would be to help people understand that good teaching isn’t just standing in front of the room talking with our hands at our students, as Alabama English teacher Stephanie Hyatt points out in an article featured in the Education Writers’ newsletter.

Good teachers learn—from their students, from one another, from teaching—and they never stop learning. Kathryn Egawa in her Voices from the Middle article talks about how this happened for her.

I slowly learned about special education teaching through the work itself, and much of it was unsettling. . . . Like so many teachers, I had inadvertently stumbled into learning from students. . . .
Eddie, who stumbled half-heartedly through the required timed readings I administered (letters, sounds, and words, with scores graphed to show growth over time), was the last to leave my resource room one afternoon. He had been absent for over a week, and when I asked if he had been sick, he replied, no, he had been fishing. He motioned for permission to use the chalkboard when I asked where he had fished, and there he sketched the Puyallup River, showing me where his Native American family anchored their boat, set their nets, and waited for the catch. All of this was new to me, despite having been Eddie’s resource teacher for over a year. There were no opportunities in the official curriculum that invited students to bring their outside experiences into the classroom, and as a young teacher, I hadn’t seen or heard of anyone doing such a thing. I had never even questioned why Eddie wasn’t completing the class work, but after this glimpse into his life, the label that qualified him for my support—“mildly mentally retarded,” (the least onerous in that era)—unsettled me. Not sure about how to revise my teaching within the special ed requirements, I kept at it.

An opportunity came to join a study group:

It was the study group experience that led me, and others, to more purposefully study our teaching. . . . I was absolutely turned on by this study of my teaching, talking about it with my peers, and tweaking my instruction in response to the connections students were or were not making.

What if you told a story like the one in this article, about an Eddie you know and who taught you to begin your teaching journey, when someone asks, “So what do you do?”

Originally posted by Millie Davis, May 2016