Interview an Expert #1: A Teacher Who Brings Wonder Into Every Lesson
Welcome to Interview an Expert: Every month I’ll introduce you to a subject matter expert who has agreed to share their insight and passion with me and the Shalon community as we prepare for upcoming conversations.
When I was young, I wanted to be a teacher. After a couple years “teaching” at a camp at a local elementary school, I realized that it wasn’t the profession for me. I loved the kids’ enthusiasm and designing projects on a budget – students loved creating their visions out of cardboard and cheap paint, however my supervisor and the parents weren’t as thrilled when they found out I’d let 5 year olds work with exact-o-knives. It made me really appreciate those people who not only want to teach, but who excel at it.
What is it like for those people for whom teaching comes naturally? I sat down with Caity Blum, who works in early education, and learned a little about what makes teaching a dream job, despite the challenges that educators face every day.
Before finding teaching, Caity worked a lot of different jobs – she kept moving to try to fulfil her desire for long term impact, which she wasn’t finding in her roles, despite their being interesting, challenging and in many ways fulfilling. She initially took a teaching job while looking for 'the next thing', but after the first year, realized she had found something special. Quickly she started to think of her work with children as a privilege; guiding them through development & exploration and shaping a love of learning.
To watch them develop independence, problem solving skills and to be a part of shaping their internal voices feels like an honor. I have never worked so hard at anything, or felt more like what I was doing had a definite and positive effect on the future.
What's impressive about Caity (and all great teachers), is that they are constantly innovating. Caity explains how an 'aha' moment turned into her greatest day teaching to date:
As part of their ongoing training, Caity and her colleagues learned how to turn basic, pre-planned, curriculum and assignments into multi layered and child driven experiences. The idea really resonated with Caity and she couldn’t stop thinking of ways to bring the creative, interactive learning into the classroom.
She shares that the first the time she wore a favorite pair of leggings that had planets printed on them to school, the kids were fascinated and had so many questions: What is space?, What’s in space?, What are planets?, Could they see pictures of stars and planets?, Who lived there?, Were they like Earth? The list went on and on and it was a perfect opportunity to launch lessons based on space exploration, and the kids had chosen it! Caity was then able to design experiences throughout the school year that reflected the children’s’ passion and that also allowed her to meet learning requirements set by the school.
When it comes to being proactive and innovative, Caity notes that it’s active teachers – the people in the field – who are starting to research and plan professional development activities for their peers. She loves that the people who truly understand the struggles and needs are creating insightful and useful content. From my, a lay person’s, perspective, it seems that this is a great opportunity to get involved to offer technology, resources and support for teachers to create best practices as they nurture students from preschool through highschool and beyond.
Ultimately, Caity’s end goal is to teach children to wonder, to question/explore, and to love that process. By showing children how to ask questions, find answers and to love the process teachers build a solid foundation for students to be inquisitive, resourceful and successful both in the classroom and beyond.
According to Caity, the hardest part of teaching is a combination of societal demands placed on educational institutions and teachers along with self-imposed objectives and critiques that must be hidden in order to bring your best self to the classroom every day. I’m so excited to bring Caity’s insights to the Shalon table as we gather to hear reflections from other education professionals and discuss the state of education in the US on May 18th.
Do you have ideas about what makes teaching magical, complicated, motivational, awful or some combination of all of the above? Share them in the comments or join us at the table to talk about what’s happening in education and how we can all be part of making positive impact for teachers and students.