One of the perks of being an ageing elementary school teacher is that I occasionally get to hear how my former students are doing. It is one of the most satisfying parts of my job. I especially love to hear when a few are thinking of becoming educators themselves.
I met Emily Gelkin while teaching 5th grade at Canadian Academy in Kobe, Japan. I remember Emily being sweet to every one and that she was ever inquisitive. She was a model student. I remember teasing Emily that I had to move all the way to Japan to meet someone from Idaho. In fact, Idaho was what I called her mostly. We learned a bunch and had a lot of fun that year.
Emily contacted me via Facebook messenger to ask me questions about teaching. The following are my responses:
Emily: If you could go back to school, what would you focus on most?
Barry: There are so many dynamics at play when you are a teacher. I cannot stress this enough. My best advice for you to keep a daily writing and reading journal. Writing, for me, has made a world of difference in my career. I really am much more reflective. Also, I would focus on a life of constant and consistent professional development. Professional development is how I stay satisfied and it makes me more marketable in a life teaching overseas. Plus, it is good for the students!
Emily:What is one thing you wish you hadn’t done when you started teaching?
Barry: I started teaching when I was twenty-two years old. I was merely 10 years older than my students. I had a lot of growing up to do and I had very little business being a teacher. I made so many mistakes. One big mistake is I listened to teachers that advised me to keep parent communication to a minimum. Keeping an open and honest dialogue with the kids’ parents makes life more meaningful.
Emily: What have you had the most success with (whether that be a teaching method, daily routine, life motto, etc.)?
Barry: When I got my masters, I had to create a professional mission statement. It was two weeks in the making. My mission statement is: “ I will provide a wholesome and upbeat environment for any and all students to succeed. I will teach students to learn to be content. I will demand that students care for the world around them as well as themselves. I will remember what it is like to be a child.”
Creating a safe learning environment is a priority each year. Learning to actively empathise with my students is a constant.
Emily: What would be your biggest recommendation before I start teaching?
Prepare to live within your means. You will never be rich but you can do well if you save your money from the beginning. Stay away from negative people. Read with a purpose. Strive to better yourself each day. Be ever hopeful.
Also,understand that teaching well is physically demanding. After completing my first day as a student teacher, I fell asleep at 5:00 PM and did not wake until 7:00 AM the next day. I was almost late for school. The students are so needy. This job really takes all of you. (Still does!)
Start a professional learning network now. Get on Twitter.
Emily: What is the one thing you wish someone had told you before you became a teacher?
The school year is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t forget to breathe. Also, prepare to laugh a ton.
Good luck in whatever you do, Idaho!