Saturday, August 3, 2013

Moving From Teacher to Helper

Photo by Richard Shaw

As August rolls in, I can't help but feel the summer slowly slipping through my fingertips. Like each school year, I feel like each summer I have "off" as a teacher gets better and better. This year I have become more connected to other teachers in Baltimore and beyond the boundaries of our city.  I engaged in a deep reworking of my school's curriculum and instructional practice, and I got to do this with my talented colleagues, some of which I rarely get a chance to collaborate. It has been a great summer for learning.

I am incredibly lucky that I also celebrated my second wedding anniversary, while simultaneously celebrating a full year as a homeowner and dog owner.  This was also the seventh summer my husband and I spent together. And this got me thinking...

Let me take a minute to tell you a little bit about Richard, my husband, and I promise it will make sense why in the end.

Richard hates school.  He doesn't read books.  He is introverted and soft spoken.


Richard is a real life google (ask him anything, he knows the answers!).  He loves literature and nonfiction, and is extremely well read.  He can also engage in conversations with anyone, around just about any topic (see the first comment in this paragraph).

What I have learned from my husband is an insight that has deeply affected how I interact with my students.  Richard hated school because there wasn't a single thing going on there that he couldn't teach himself.  He decided that is exactly what he would do, and he didn't receive a formal education after 9th grade.  Yet, ask him about politics, agriculture, technology, law, history-- yup, he knows all about it. He didn't need a teacher or a school to teach him that stuff.  

Have you ever taught a kid like Richard?  I most certainly have.

So as a teacher, where does that leave me? Do my students need me or can they do okay with all these resources available around them?  Well, of course students need teachers, but they don't need us to learn.  Really, they need us to help them discover what is available, to help give them the confidence to follow their interests and passions, and to believe in themselves.  

My job, really, is to help-- not teach. So I am moving from "What can I teach you?" to "What can I help you learn?"  Let me help my students understand the world around them, find the answers to their questions, and explore things that don't make sense.  Let's help one another make sense of all the confusing, complex, and amazingly beautiful situations surrounding us.  My goal this year is to move from a place of teacher to that of communal helper, where everyone in my classroom has this same job title.

What have you learned this summer?  What lessons and new understandings will you carry back to your students?  And, most importantly, who in your life is helping you?

(Thanks to my husband for always helping me make sense of my world.  It is a lesson I'll be taking back to school with me this year.)


  1. This is such a great insight! It's so true that the role of teachers has changed so dramatically in this abundance of access and information. Our best role now is to help them become lifelong learners so they can always learn whatever they might need. Thanks for sharing this perspective.

    1. Thanks Steph! Love watching you guys do this with the kids at DHF!