How Teaching Changed My Life

The other day I happened to see this tweet in my feed, and all of a sudden I felt compelled to respond to it.


I thoroughly answered the first part of the question, and one could assume the second part as well. Teaching changed my life by giving me a purpose and direction that I sorely needed. However, that’s more of a byproduct of why I chose teaching. How it changed my life didn’t really materialize until later.

I mentioned in my previous post how I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, but what I didn’t know during all that time is that I had the completely wrong idea about what it means to be a teacher, especially a good one.

All through K-12, I was one of those students who was “good” at school. Everything came easy to me and I got As in all of my classes. Well, with the exception of a C in band one grading period because I was terrible about turning in my weekly practice sheet. That blip aside, my record was spotless.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that while I was “good” at school, I wasn’t actually a very good learner. Mostly I just had a great memory. I could remember what I read in books. I could remember how to spell my spelling words. I could remember all the steps required to solve my math problems.

And since most of my assignments revolved around remembering things, I was an A student. Sure, there might have been 1 or 2 critical thinking questions at the bottom of a worksheet, and I generally did awful at those, but since I got the other 28 basic questions correct, I was always assured an A.

If you look up the term fixed mindset in the dictionary, there is likely a picture of my younger self next to it. Growing up, I considered myself naturally smart, as did my parents and teachers. I didn’t do it consciously, but as a result, I shied away from anything that could possibly put that idea in jeopardy. Or I cheated. That I did fairly consciously and with much guilt. I couldn’t have people finding out I was a fraud, now could I?

Becoming a teacher taught me that I was wrong about so many things.

I learned that school shouldn’t be about memorization and worksheets. My job as a teacher is to create experiences that all of my students can participate in and learn from. I should be fostering many more skills beyond simple recall. My students should be modeling and problem solving and communicating, to name just a few.

I learned how to be a learner myself. I’m especially thankful I had the chance to attend numerous workshops put on by Pam Harris. She helped me realize that I can model and problem solve and communicate just like my students. It was a liberating experience.

During my years as a teacher, with two years of grad school mixed in, my fixed mindset about my intelligence was shattered. I became a professional development junkie. I always wanted to know more about the best ways to teach every subject because I wanted to create experiences that were completely unlike what I had as a kid. I wanted my students to come away from my class thinking that they have the ability to learn anything they want.

In some ways, you could say that I got into teaching for all the wrong reasons. It could have been a disaster, but thankfully I had the right experiences to open my eyes to the true potential I had in the classroom. I’ve never been so happy to be wrong.


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