I recently discovered a website named Teachmeet New Jersey: Fresh Ideas for Education. The site introduces educators to its readers by conducting short interviews. I really like that idea so I asked a few people from my PLN to answer a few questions about education. Enjoy.
How long have you been teaching?
The answer depends on what you consider “teaching”. I first started working as a laboratory assistant in 2000 at my undergraduate institution. I also did some tutoring of high school students in chemistry during this time. When I graduated from undergrad in 2002, I started in a PhD program in Chemistry. During the 2 years I spent in this program I was a laboratory instructor and a recitation (kind of a mini-lecture) instructor. Then I switched to a Master of Teaching (MAT) degree and continued to serve as a lab instructor in the Chemistry Department. This was a great opportunity because I was able to try out all the things I was learning in my methods courses in real time. I didn’t have to wait until student teaching to put the ideas into practice, I usually tried new ideas the next week in lab or recitation. After graduating with my MAT, I became a middle/high school teacher in an affluent, medium sized, midwestern town. In this first position I taught 7th grade general science, 9th grade physical science and 12th grade advanced chemistry. I was then offered to return to graduate school to work on a grant and pursue my PhD in Curriculum & Instruction with an emphasis in science education. I spent a year on campus taking class and collecting data for my dissertation. Importantly, I also was teaching and assisting classes for preservice teachers. After this year, I found a teaching position at a school that was very different on paper from my first school. This second school’s students were culturally and economically diverse. My two years at this second k-12 position allowed me to really grow as an educator. Now I am in my first year as a university professor teaching preservice teachers in the school of education and even one laboratory section in the Chemistry Department. So, if you add it all up, I have been teaching others for almost 11 years.
Has your educational philosophy changed since you began teaching?
Absolutely! People always told me I should be a teacher because I was good at explaining things to others. My first teaching (before my MAT) was mostly my attempt to come up with better and better explanations for things. During my MAT, I came to understand that really good teaching is about helping others explain things. Good teachers don’t give great explanations, they help others construct the explanations. This notion hasn’t changed much, but continues to be refined. I constantly ask myself how I might better help my students think more deeply.
If so, what led to this change? Was it a gradual process or a specific event?
I somewhat alluded to this in my last response. Yet, my preservice program was excellent. Good teaching was consistently modeled in this program. Had I not witnessed this good teaching, I am unsure I would have become the teacher I am today. For this reason, I work to consistently model good teaching in my own methods courses.
Has Twitter played a role in your evolution as a teacher? If so, how?
Yes and no. Twitter has not affected my philosophy of education much, but I don’t want to dismiss the power of my twitter interactions. I think where twitter has helped me is when I want to do X, I can ask people how to do X and I get some really good ideas and resources.