Teaching is a second career for me. I have spent the last eight years as a graphic designer, organizing and marketing information–selling words and ideas to people. Last year, I had an experience that made me want to repurpose my skills and use them to teach. I have always had a passion for words, for communication, but in that moment I learned breaking through a barrier and sharing access to information with a child is my purpose.
Sitting in our small dining room, I looked across the table at my daughter with her face and shoulders scrunched up tightly. Her hand gripped a pencil so hard her knuckles were turning white, she used the other hand to wrap her sweatshirt tighter across her chest. After ten years as her mother, I knew these signs. She was overwhelmed with her environment and could not take in any more information, especially not my guidance on organizing her research project. I stood up, slid the light switch-dimmer halfway down and took three, slow, deep, breaths. She did too.
I departed from the lesson and asked, “Did you learn to sign any more of your song?”
Three deep breaths, a quiet room with less light, and a topic she was passionate about allowed her to release her grip. The tension in her face unfolded as she poured out her feelings on ASL (American Sign Language) verses SEE (Signing Exact English) and how frustrated it made her when she could not find the ASL version of her song. In the middle of her rant she paused and said, “Ok, I will try using the note cards to organize my research.”
Every student needs to feel safe in their environment and confident in themselves before they can fully open themselves up to learning. As a student teacher, I wish to expand my skills in building a safe community environment that opens each student’s door to learning. I understand that within each classroom community are individuals with unique strengths and weaknesses. My daughter once told me, “Sometimes, I feel like a bird while everyone else is a fish.” I want to be an educator that recognizes feelings like these and helps students to value their power to fly rather than focus on their inability to swim.