Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Born to Learn

The first draft of this post was originally written for a graduate class at the University of Illinois.  The assignment was to create a belief statement based on the classic "This I Believe" project (www.thisibelieve.org), that was familiar to me from NPR.  I have revised this several times, but never published before.  Feedback is welcome.

This I Believe...


When I graduated from college, I was given a t-shirt by my advisor in the education department.  It said “Born to Teach” in the same capital letter scrawl that spelled “Born to Kill” on Private Joker’s helmet in Stanley Kubrik’s Full Metal Jacket.  I never saw the movie, but I wore the shirt with pride and passion for my chosen path in life. 

When I landed my first teaching job, I found myself facing a group of 8th graders who had chewed through three teachers and a substitute during the first quarter of the year.  On the first day, more than one student asked me how long I was planning on staying or what I would do if I was offered my dream job.  I looked every student who asked me that in the eye and told them that I had my dream job.

What I learned from my years in the classroom was that my passion for teaching stemmed from my own passion for learning.  I have spent more of my adult life in graduate programs than not.  My studies have been personal pursuits of knowledge as well as attempts to understand how people think and learn.  Being a student has helped me relate to my own students in ways I never imagined.  My most memorable lessons were when I witnessed students struggle to understand a concept or build an argument to defend a position.  I realized that the construction of knowledge was more powerful than the imparting of facts or wisdom, and my job was to help students construct meaning from their own life experiences and their academic pursuits.  My most memorable courses have been ones where my own ideas have been challenged and expanded.

I am now about as far removed from my dream job as I ever hope to be, but I believe in everybody’s ability to construct meaning, think critically, debate and collaborate.  I believe that as an educational leader it is my job to provide opportunities and supports for everyone to become independent learners.  I believe that everyone is born to learn.