I have two children, both of whom are currently in college. Throughout my teaching career, a little voice in my head constantly asked me “If your children were in a class like this at their school, what would you want the teacher to do “? Tough question, easy answer. Be the best teacher you can be. Inspire them and motivate them. Fortunately for me, I am blessed with a love of the natural world that I can translate into unbridled enthusiasm in the classroom.
If you were to ask any of my colleagues or students for the first words that come to mind to describe me, I am sure the majority will tell you that I am a little different. Perhaps the senior class of the high school where I teach said it best when I was voted the most unique teacher three years in a row. My philosophy of teaching is simple: in the words of Avril Lavigne “I want to be anything but ordinary please”. How can a teacher motivate students if they are not totally passionate about their subject?
A lot of my free time is filled with gathering materials to enrich my classes. I have a rock, mineral and fossil collection that is better than many museums. I have a personal collection of over 2000 slides of landforms, clouds, and biomes across the United States. My students know that when I show them a sample or slide in class, that I did not buy it, but that I was there.
My classroom lessons are not just simple show and tell sessions however. Armed with a permit from the National Park Service, I hiked the Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon and collected rock samples from each layer (an 18 mile hike with 85 pounds of rocks). I recreate the Canyon in my classroom and have students deduce the geologic history of the area by interpreting the messages in the rocks. Some of my lessons are legendary such as the one where I turn my classroom into a cave, dress in full spelunking gear and proceed to teach an entire lesson in the dark about speleology.
The greatest reward for me is when I infect a student with my enthusiasm for science. I typically am made aware of this through conversations with parents. Some examples:
-The parent who let me know that the family drive was anything but normal. Their child constantly asked them to stop the car at outcrops so they could collect rocks.
-The parent who is afraid that their child is going to catch cold because they are spending hours outside in the cold hoping to see a meteor or satellite.
-The parent who is being pestered by their child to replace all the incandescent light bulbs in their house with compact fluorescents.
I love my job and I love what I do. An old proverb says “Love what you do and you will never work a day in your life”. I am so lucky to be a teacher.