What Inspired You To Teach? | Hooray for Monday

August 1, 2022

By Aleta Margolis, Founder and President, Center for Inspired Teaching

Hooray for Monday is a weekly blog filled with questions, ideas, reflections, and actions we can all take to remodel the school experience for students.

the hooray for monday logo: a rising yellow sun over the words Hooray For Monday in yellow font, which are above the Inspired Teaching logo

Do you remember when you decided to become a teacher? Or perhaps teaching chose you? What’s your story?

For me, deciding to become a teacher happened after years of studying acting and theater directing. At the time, I was teaching a playwriting course in Washington, DC to high schoolers in the juvenile justice system. I discovered that the key skills I’d been building as an actor and director were critical components of effective teaching. The most important of these skills were the ability to ask thought-provoking questions that inspired others to learn, and the ability to listen.

As my students’ writing skills grew and creative problem-solving skills blossomed, I became convinced that all students need a school experience that values their ideas and contributions. Creating an engagement (not compliance!) based school experience for all students became my passion. And now, over 30 years later, that passion continues to motivate me in my work.

When you reflect on your own “Why I became a teacher” story, where are the places you find your passion? Perhaps you were inspired to teach by a passion for learning, a passion for social justice, or a passion for a particular subject matter. Perhaps you were passionate about engaging your intellectual curiosity – about science, literature, or language – or how other people’s brains learn.

Where can you find that passion now? Perhaps your passion lies in the work of supporting students who are experiencing the trauma of the pandemic. Perhaps your passion lies in uncovering new knowledge and understanding about history or literature or astronomy. (Did you know, according to astronomer Mike Brown – AKA the man who “killed Pluto” – there may be a new Planet 9, far, far away, and far larger than the Earth?!) Perhaps your passion lies in teaching young people to engage with one another from a place of kindness and respect.

Passion for teaching and learning is a core component of Inspired Teaching.

A list outline of Inspired Teacher traits, outlining the capabilities for teaching students respectful discourse

As we prepare for another year of teaching and learning, we face the challenge of remembering our passion, even as we continue navigating the effects of the ongoing pandemic, the increasing social and emotional needs of our students, the standards students must learn, and more.

Based on your requests and your input, Inspired Teaching is releasing our second annual Making School Worth It Toolkit for SY 22-23. It is designed to help you – teachers and school leaders – navigate these challenges while keeping student agency, curiosity, and wellbeing at the forefront. It is filled with practical, standards-based tools, lessons, and activities for preK-12 teachers. It will be available for download via this link on August 1.

The 2022-2023 cover of the Making School Worth It toolkit for parents and teachers

As we greet this first day of August and begin to think about heading back to school, now is a good moment to ask ourselves…

  • Why did I decide to become a teacher?
  • Why am I teaching this year?
  • What am I feeling passionate about – both inside and outside of the classroom?
  • What can I do to make school worth it this year, for my students and myself?

My colleagues at Inspired Teaching and I look forward to accompanying you on that journey, and to continuing to support you during the year ahead.

4 Ways to Reconnect With
Your Passion for Teaching

  1. Share your story. If you’re on a social media channel, share it there. If that’s not your jam, try writing it down in an email and sharing with colleagues. You might frame your sharing with something like this: “I’ve been thinking about the return to school this fall and reflecting on what got me into teaching to begin with. I’m sharing my story in the hopes you’ll share yours too. Reminding ourselves of our why might be just the encouragement we need to jump into this new year.”
  2. Pick one new thing to try. Right now the ideas are swirling and you probably have 10 things you’d like to do differently when school begins. And your school will likely make some changes to the curriculum, technology, school policies and procedures, professional learning expectations, etc. It can be overwhelming heading back to school in the midst of all these demands alongside your own big aspirations. So when it comes to your own vision for the year, see what happens when you focus. Pick just ONE new thing to try this fall. Read up on it, plan for it, and consult with other teachers who have tried it. But start with just one thing. It might be using flexible seating, or greeting each child as they come in the door each day, or letting students choose their own books rather than a whole class read. Any of these initiatives will require practice, trial and error, and learning along the way. Give yourself and your students the time you need. You can always add more things after school is up and running. But holding yourself to just one thing at the start means you’ll be more likely to make it work.
  3. Identify your word for the year. Have you heard about the “one word” initiative? This phenomenon has taken the place of New Year’s resolutions for many people in recent years and involves intentionally choosing a word that you’ll reflect on over the course of 365 days. What might happen if you do something like that for the school year? What if you invited your students to do the same?
  4. Be a mentor. A lot of new teachers will be coming into schools for the first time this fall. Helping someone just joining the profession to find their footing and stay connected to their passion can actually keep you connected with your own. Whether you become a mentor in a formal way or just choose to look out for a new colleague, you will likely find that the learning is mutual.

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