Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Individuality, The Confidence to Transfer Knowledge and Values

During the successful years of my teaching professionally, I was given a challenge and left on my own.  That was first as a mother.  Being a parent is a profession.  Yes, there's a joke that it's the one profession with neither formal training nor certification exams.  And my three teaching careers also began without any supervision, a just minimal training in one of the jobs.

My husband and I made aliyah, moved to Israel, two months after our wedding.  My mother came to visit and help when I was due with our eldest, but within a month she was back in New York, and I was on my own.  For me and my personality, there was an advantage to this isolation from the family.  I was able to develop my own methods, style of mothering without any interference.  I don't suffer instructions well, or at all.  The isolation allowed me to be an "instinctive parent."  My mother sent me lots of "parenting books" which I read and took ideas, what I felt suited me and our children.   She also used to send me cookbooks and natural health books.  I'd do the same with those, combine and tweak recipes and theories.  I'm an individualist by nature, to me very core.  There's no one way to parent.  Each of our kids are different and we're different with each one.  And that's the way it should be.

As a teacher, I began teaching Creative Dance.  The only formal teachers training I had received was to be an Israeli Folk Dance instructor. Creative Dance was just an opportunity I took when the school principal announced to the "PTA" that she was looking for after school activities for the girls.  I had studied dance almost every year from age three to twenty, and being a Creative Dance teacher was a natural for me.  Never in the two years I taught did anyone come to observe.  The students enjoyed it and I had many job offers.  I only stopped when we moved to Shiloh, where I was asked to teach sport, Physical Education.  There, too, even though I taught thirteen years in the local elementary school and went to official Israeli P.E. Teacher events, I was never observed by any Ministry of Education inspectors.

A few years after that career ended, I was asked to teach high school EFL English to the weakest groups.  It went well for many years, but then I was made to teach regular classes and be subject to many rules and regulations.  I had greater success in my early years, when I just taught what seemed right to the small grateful groups.  There isn't just one way to teach.  A good teacher can "turn on a dime."  Sometimes you have to just change your plans, the materials and methods, and teach what the students need, not what is in your official plan.  I also found it impossible to reuse materials, tests, etc.  Each year, even when using the same book as the year before, I'd prepare new tests and worksheets.  Not only did I have different students each year, but I felt like a new and different person.

It's said that the best teacher gives individual work to each student, teaches them according to their talents and weaknesses.  Yes the same as a good parent.

And don't forget that parents and teachers are humans, individuals, too.

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