Describe one of your biggest challenges in your professional career.
It was the spring
of 1980 when teaching all came together for me. I realized then that
I could no longer teach as I had been teaching, and that I needed to
change. I decided that I was going to teach in an "alternative
program." Now, of course, with the maturity of years, I know that
I really didn't need to change programs to change what I was doing.
That's okay. At the time, I felt I needed to be recognized and identified
as an alternative school teacher. I left behind the textbooks and started
to think how I would expect the children to learn, and what I could
do to help them learn. What materials could I choose to use to help
them learn, as opposed to "This is the book you're supposed to
use." It was very exciting, very scary, and very hard.
How has your approach to teaching changed over the years?
I absolutely adore
being with the children and really teaching them, focusing on what they
need to know instead of what I need to teach them. [During my early
years of teaching], I hadn't identified the difference, but it is a
pretty powerful difference to me now. What changed was that instead
of thinking about what I was supposed to teach, I started to think about
what they needed to learn. It was the other side of the coin. And once
I owned that and really understood it—that I was a facilitator for
them—my practice really changed and the classroom changed as a result.
Listening to the kids is what makes teaching exciting for me now.