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Mrs. Smith

"Homework Today, Paycheck Tomorrow"

by Robin Smith, NBCT

      After seventeen years of being a teacher at Parkway School, I have never forgotten the challenges and difficulties of being a middle school student. As a middling seventh grade student,  I routinely practiced one skill as a regular part of my daily education.  Within a second of my teacher, Mrs. Hill, turning to write on the chalkboard, I could stealthily launch a sharpened pencil into the ceiling before she could even pick up her chalk. My teacher did not notice me, or worse, chose to ignore me, and as a result, I didn’t “buy into” taking myself seriously. I learned that sinking is much easier than rising; thus, I drifted through this year and many others until my senior English teacher, Mrs. Hunter, would not let me skip assignments, star as the class clown or conversely, go unnoticed. Because she acknowledged confidence in me, I begin doing the same.  Fast Forwarding into my teaching career, it is no mystery why I am a firm but fair teacher who holds high expectations, treats all students with fairness and equity, and promotes student accountability and responsibility. While a seventh grade student is unlikely to remember the curricula, strategies, and assessments, they will remember whether or not they were loved and valued as students while being challenged to grow as young adults.  Therefore, my philosophy is that every student, provided love and support,has the capability to master the learning process that requires self-determination, cooperation with others, and patience.

      While the education pendulum swings with changing  instructional styles, standards, goals and objectives, and best curricula practices, the learning process has not changed. The first step in the process is teaching students to self-advocate and communicate through writing and speaking.  Because accepting criticism and voicing questions are difficult, I have to establish trust with students so that they take academic risks. Trial and error is the greatest teacher of all, and within the error comes the aha moment where learning transpires. When a student accepts, values, and adapts to criticism, the transformative moment of success then generates cravings for further success. In addition to teaching students to properly advocate both academically and personally, my goal also includes helping students draw connections and correlations between the past and the present and between themselves and the global community. To serve this goal, I teach integrated, balanced units which combine universal themes such as justice, change, and empathy with research, problem solving, and analysis of information.  I routinely balance fiction with nonfiction in hopes of bringing dimension to history through examining the impact an event or time period had upon the lives and wellbeing of actual people.   Through the experiences of fictional and nonfictional characters, students learn the character traits that all citizens should possess.  Furthermore, I must help students with the role of media because we are members of technology-driven society that bombards students with an overload of information from the Web where countless perspectives must be investigated, navigated and sifted through in order to find truth and balance.        

       Ultimately, my hope is that I am the Mrs. Hunter to my students: the teacher who will not allow a student to quietly fall through the cracks. Each year, I notice the Robin-style-kids who haven’t bought into themselves as learners or the purpose of school which is more than just books and tests.  And like Mrs. Hunter, I begin  building the trust, teaching the learning process, and helping them recognize their capabilities to grow into young adults who make connections between today’s completed homework and school success with tomorrow’s paycheck and independence as an adult.