“The mediocre teacher tells.The good teacher explains.The superior teacher demonstrates.
But the great teacher inspires.” -William Arthur Ward
This quote epitomizes my philosophy of the role of a teacher. In my opinion, a teacher—and especially a history teacher—needs to do more than just teach her students facts and dates; a teacher needs to inspire her students and teach them to be critical thinkers and thoughtful historians. To do this, a good teacher is dedicated, creative, and inspiring.
I strongly believe that all students can learn; however, all students cannot learn the same way. Some students are visual learners or logical thinkers, while others may learn most effectively through hands-on experiences; some students may understand the material instantly, while others will need extra help, constant repetition, and a step-by-step breakdown of the material. Yet, no matter how each individual learns, it is the role and the responsibility of a teacher to find a way to get through to each of her students. To do this, a teacher needs to differentiate the material: she needs to create lessons, design assignments, and develop teaching strategies that will respond to each student’s unique learning needs. While this task may seem overwhelming or even impossible at times, a good teacher never gives up on her students. She is dedicated to her students and will go the extra mile to help all students achieve at their full potential.
To truly learn the material, students need to be engaged in the classroom. However, it is important to recognize that engagement is not equivalent to interest or entertainment. Thus, to truly engage her students, a teacher needs to be creative. The typical student may not always be engaged by listening to lectures or filling out worksheets. Throughout my educational career, the lessons I was most engaged in—the lessons I undoubtedly learned the most from—were the ones that had the students interact with the material. Still today, I remember the debates, the simulations, and the projects of my high school history classes; these were the lessons that prompted me to think analytically and to understand the larger implications of various historical events. Essentially, creative teachers do more than simply teach dates and events—they inspire their students to see the value and importance of history.
As a history teacher, it is important to remember that not all students will find the material interesting or worthwhile. She needs to help her students see the larger implications of history, to understand big concepts like cause-and-effect and change-over-time. She needs to teach her students how to think critically, to read thoughtfully, and to form educated opinions of their own. And most importantly, she needs to prompt her students to understand what it means to live and participate in a free, democratic society.