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I don’t think it’s just Juniata College nor do I think it’s just Pennsylvania. Students studying to be teachers all over the country are frequently criticized and their choice is questioned. As someone who’s been a teacher at heart since I learned to talk, this is why I teach.
I teach to create a brighter future. I can’t change the hate, discrimination, and violence in the world today, but I can change it for the future. The students in my classroom are the future, and preschool and elementary schoolers’ attitudes are malleable in a way that adults’ attitudes aren’t. I’m cognizant of the influence I have in their lives and use that influence to teach an anti-bias curriculum that actively seeks to dispel stereotypes.
I teach to share. That’s what teaching is, really. It’s just sharing. I love books, so I try to share that love of reading with my students. I love science, so I cultivate curiosity and problem-solving through science lessons and activities. I have a different perspective on life and I come from a different generation than my students, so I have all of that rich culture and history to share as well. And sharing is reciprocal. I create a classroom space in which my students feel comfortable sharing their life experiences and knowledge with me. I believe that, regardless of age or authority, we should all be able to share our knowledge and experience with each other and learn from others.
I teach to learn. Kids are way smarter than adults give them credit for, and I teach to learn from them. Some kids know more about dinosaurs than I will ever know, some have had unique life experiences that I don’t know anything about, and some are emotionally intelligent beyond their years. Each child has a unique knowledge base to share with the world, and they’re so enthusiastic to share what they know. It’s my job as a teacher to value their knowledge and learn from them. In terms of emotional well-being and acceptance of differences, kids are some of the wisest people I know. As a teacher, it’s both my job to teach my students and to learn from them.
I teach to make a difference in someone’s life. Students come into my classroom from many different homes and kinds of families, and some come to school with a lot of emotional baggage. It’s my job to provide a safe, caring environment for every student, and create a classroom in which all students can be successful. For many students, teachers are their safe haven and school is a place where they can feel safe and loved. That’s a big responsibility, but it’s a responsibility that comes with so many rewards.
I teach for a multitude of reasons, and these are just a few of them. But, regardless of why I teach, I’m glad I teach at Juniata. Juniata’s Education department is unique and continues to prepare me well for life after graduation. Every semester, I have a practicum in which I get hands-on experience in a preschool or elementary school classroom. In addition to classroom time, my classes teach me valuable skills for other aspects of teaching, including writing IEPs, creating transition plans, and facilitating home visits for families. Juniata has prepared me well for teaching and will continue to prepare me over the course of the next 2 ½ years. There are a million reasons why I teach, and a million and one reasons why I’m an Ed POE at Juniata.