Tuesday, September 5, 2017

I will change, you will change and that is ok

Dave A. and I are ready to talk to a group of senior citizens tomorrow about the value of a liberal education.  The usual stance in such a talk is consider a broad education vs. more technical and focused study.  I have spent years working with teachers and assisting college students become teachers.  As I think about my experiences, it seems to me that there are few times when I helped students try to see the likely changes they would experience in themselves as time went by.

Some professors feel that becoming a teacher is itself vocational training of the technical and focused type.  A couple of hundred years ago, advanced learning was more or less restricted to men.  Men are famous for the emphasis on the impersonal and the so-called objective things in life.  But to a large extent, becoming a teacher is a very personal thing.  When you are talking to a class, marking their exams and planning the next lesson, your own tastes, strengths, conviction and tendencies will make themselves felt.

So, depending on the major one studies, it is possible to earn a college degree with very little time and effort spent on self-examination and self-knowledge.  Some typical college-age students suppose that at age 22 or so, they are finished changing.  It can come as a big surprise to find that they have talents, temperament and fears they hadn't known about until they began teaching.  In general, we can expect a person who begins teaching full-time will take 2 years or so before being comfortable with the job, themselves, and the students.

But even after the initial period, there will still be changes, welcome and unwelcome.  A key administrative post may be filled by a new person, who has different ideas about running a school.  The school system one teaches for may require the teacher to change schools or subjects or grade levels.  Inservice education, the courses and credits that most teachers are required to take to remain up-to-date and certified, may introduce new ideas and practices.  The nature of the student body may change.

Many teachers are interested in improving their teaching and keeping the enthusiasm of themselves and their student high.  They may adopt new ways of teaching, new definitions of success for themselves or their students.  When college students are first trying teaching, they need to concentrate on their own performance and usually don't have time or energy to see the larger connections to public opinion, social attitudes, local, state, national and world politics.  But as time goes by, they get a chance to widen their views and connections and opportunities they hadn't thought about at first.

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