Wednesday, August 10, 2011

It Must Be Love

So here’s how I got a piece of teaching advice, which turns out to be the most valuable I ever received. It happened during my senior year at Florida State.

I was in the office of my Chaucer professor Dr. Eugene Crook, and I mentioned to him my desire to become a teacher. After we talked a while about the challenges of the profession, he ended our conversation with a shrug, almost ushering me out the door with this statement: “Roy, you can’t teach’em if you don’t love’m.”

From my first day of teaching, I recognized the truth in Crook’s assertion. The young people in my inaugural class at FSU came to mean more to me than almost anyone else in my life up to that time. What I did in that classroom, and everything I did to prepare for it, evoked a feeling that I can only describe as love – maybe because it was an all-new feeling for me and I didn’t know what else to call it. So that year, I fell in love with my students and with my profession – which I prefer to call a vocation – and now some 35 (gulp) years later, I love them both more than ever.

As far as I know, my motives for entering teaching had the purity of love. I didn’t want it for career advancement (I never aspired to be a department chair or dean or principal or president or any other position that required meetings and neckties) or for wealth (I rarely noticed the number that showed up on my check, at least not until the Florida legislature began to pound my beloved profession into a bloody pulp) or fame (no matter how hard teachers work, they don’t show up in the media unless they’re wearing an orange jumpsuit, usually from misunderstanding the whole “you can’t teach’em if you don’t love’m” thing). I wanted nothing from it but itself.

I’ll say more later about how this philosophy looks in practice. For now, as the students start filing into your classroom in the next week or so, consider how you would treat them and how you would help them learn and grow if you did love them. If you do this, you won’t need to fret over the 60 freaking categories on the all-new Marzano Teaching Evaluation Form.

No more stalling: Next time I’ll say something that I hope helps you with the first days in the classroom.

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