Hello, I’m your teacher.
One year, seven classes, 150 students. That’s my number.
It has been one year. I’ve led seven classes. I’ve taught 150 students. In my opinion, my greatest skill is not design or coding. Those days are long gone to be proud of that. My greatest skill is compassion.
You see, I love my job. I wake up early every day ready to talk to, and help anyone who needs it. Being a good teacher isn’t about sharing your skills, it’s about making sure someone is in love with their life.
Sure, people will want to learn a new topic. But being disingenuous and distant from a students learning experience can sour the topic forever for them. In order to teach someone, you have to accept that you are their new guidance. The best teachers I ever had, were the ones that would cancel appointments to make sure I got it.
The following are my pieces of advice I’ve gained over the last year of teaching.
Give away your passions
When you teach, you’re on a students mind. When they go home after a class, they should be thinking about what you taught them. I imagine culinary student’s rush to get home to create what they learned that day.
When I was in school, I would spend every weeknight and weekend creating. I was so inspired because my teachers were so inspired. By seeing my teachers so excited to share with me their love for what they did, I wanted to be just like them.
Students don’t wanna hear about the tough times and how cynical you’ve become. They spend their classes with all eyes on you. They want to know how to be just as happy as you are. If you’re not happy teaching, well, maybe it’s not for you.
Create, give, repeat
I like to remind my students, especially in the tech industry, that it’s not a competition. We are lucky enough to live in a time where there are jobs are plentiful for those who work hard.
Long ago, I would hold grudges against those who I felt created better work than I did. But, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I didn’t see the value in my own work and that what I saw as ugly, can be wonderful to someone else.
It doesn’t matter that my lesson is ugly. I created it, I taught it and I gave it to my students. To them, they’re just appreciative that I would create something that could potentially help and inspire them for years to come.
Your five minute sketch could be a Monet to someone else, so just keep creating.
Hug your dog/cat
When I was teaching at Humber College, I would only get paid for the time in the classroom. Each class was three hours, and it would take me an hour and a half to get there. So travel time and teaching time combined, Six hours. But somehow I was there for eight. I literally would get kicked out of classes because I’d be sticking around helping students. My job didn’t end with the bell, my job ended when my students were smiling.
Some jobs had me counting the minutes until 5. Teaching has me wishing that there was more time in the day to inspire.
Read a room
One of the things I’ve been told is my greatest skill when teaching, is my ability to read a room. This goes along with my tendency to not care about my personal schedule, I will not rush through a lesson.
Being a teacher, all eyes are on you. Your job is not to read from the notes, but to turn inquisitive looks, into inspired faces. If you can’t tell who’s struggling, then ask questions. If no one answers, ask another question. If again, you get no answer, approach the concept from a different angle. Repeat.
You’re not an entertainer that has ‘bad crowds’. You are a teacher, and your audience needs to leave with an understanding of your passion.
People made a life change for education. There are plenty of places they’d rather be, but they chose to be with you. For those as passionate as you are, they make your job easy. But for those that struggle or don’t want to be there, you need to help them understand what’s standing in your way.
One of my favourite things to do is to connect to my students outside of the classroom. I like to just hear about their lives. What makes them tick and what we have in common. I’d rather be a friend than an educator.
One of the worst things I’ve experienced as a teacher is having a student apologize to me for being lazy all semester. They emailed me stating they regret having me deal with their tardiness, because they had realized that they didn’t share my love for the subject and that they would be changing fields. To me, that didn’t require an apology, I was happy that I had helped that person discover where their heart lied.
I would rather a student refocus their attention to a different subject then give up learning at all. No hard feelings. That’s my job as an educator, think outside the scope of my subject.
With all that being said, my final lesson is the most important one.
Lose the ego.
You don’t teach because it looks good on a resume, you teach because it is truly a selfless, kind and satisfying feeling. Honestly, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that the greatest feeling is sharing your life and experience. Teaching requires you to be noble and wise.
It is sincerely, the greatest job I’ve ever had.
So do it.