Why I Teach.

Man at Work

Man at Work

“Most of us end up with no more than five or six people who remember us. Teachers have thousands of people who remember them for the rest of their lives.Andy Rooney 

“I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.” John Steinbeck 

I taught in Maryland, Singapore, and Japan. I now teach 4th grade students in Hong Kong. In 1985, I enrolled as an elementary education major at Bridgewater State College of Bridgewater, Massachusetts. I have continued to earn a paycheck as a teacher from August 1990, to the present. Until now, I have never seriously considered doing anything else, but teach.

Initially, I merely wanted to help struggling kids find success in the classroom. As a senior in high school, I was an intern for a classroom of learning-disabled, elementary-aged children. I knew I had found my calling within the first week of my internship. I have lived a life of learning and teaching ever since.

So many inspired educators, inside and outside the classroom have affected the way I practice my craft. As a public school student, I learned to value all teachers, regardless of their ability. As a teacher, I teach my students to value themselves and acquire habits of life long learners.

To be an effective teacher, one must model kindness, compassion, organization, intelligence, flexibility, collaboration, an understanding of educational technology, a belief in one’s ability, trust in your teammates, and perseverance. I expect school leaders to offer and house a brain-researched, structured, engaging, differentiated curriculum.

My first day as a teacher was nothing short of a disaster; my Mid-Atlantic based students had little idea what their New England teacher was saying. Still, I talked way too much. My lesson plans were highly organized. Alas, I was painfully unsuccessful as a manager of time. My Boston accent was very thick. My students giggled a nervous laugh every time I tried to communicate. I had little idea how mentally exhausting the job would be.

Today, I am much more relaxed and confident. I seek the advice of administrators and specialists less. Rather, I independently investigate how the human brain actually acquires knowledge. For professional development, I greatly rely on Twitter and my professional learning network. I make the time to read professional trade books more than ever.

My best advice for new teachers is to live conservatively, so that you liberally develop your craft. Demand more from you than anyone else could ever demand. Work hard. Inspire others to believe in themselves through learning.

Teachers, all over the world, why do you STILL teach? How has your teaching practice evolved? What factors are competing with you from doing your best work? Best of luck as you continue your journey.

Do well.

 Reference:

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_teacher.html#uq72kxGKtOewvemU.99

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A Letter from a Fourth Grade Teacher

Dear Parents,

This letter is for you.

You have my undying admiration. Yours is the most meaningful, most important job in the world. I thank you all for trusting me to work with your children. Foremost, they bring me great joy.

The events in Connecticut, USA, these past few days are a reminder of all that is family, compassion, empathy and kindness. I find myself more than a bit angry. Overall, I guess I am just sad.

I have spent a good part of this weekend talking to my wife, family and friends. Still, I cannot fathom what parents are feeling. Understand that I am trying to “get it. ”

I have no grand advice to give you or your children. I only can tell you that I will listen to your kids and try my best to send them in the right direction. I will continue to push them to write, to read good books, and to think. I will continue to smile and make them laugh. We will have as normal a school day as possible. I will make sure that I am a comforting, peaceful presence in your child’s day.

The last week before school lets out for Winter Break is traditionally hectic. Rest assured that I have already scheduled routine, low-key lessons. That said I expect anxiety levels will raise up a notch. I am proud to say that our entire faculty is ready.

Online there are many articles, podcasts and blog postings offering tips on how to talk to your children about tragedy. They help.

However you choose to talk to your child, please help them remember that regardless of what they see on television, school is a safe place. Extremely caring people fill schools worldwide.

 

Please allow me to close this letter with a haiku from Izumi Shikibu:

“Although the wind

blows terribly here,

the moonlight also leaks

between the roof planks

of this ruined house.”

 

Take care,

 Barry Mernin

Reference:

 

Shibiku, I. (n.d.). “although the wind .”. Retrieved from http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/178441

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watching your Parents Age from a Distance, (revisited)

Week two of my visit home continues.

I remain ever so proud of both my mom and dad. Both continue to do exercises so that they can make the most of their seventy-four year old bodies. Mom positions herself by the kitchen sink while we practice stretching and standing. Dad is now with his nursing home therapists transferring from his wheelchair to the shower room chair. This is a major goal in his ongoing battle for greater independence. The two of them are as upbeat as one may expect. They are remarkable in their perseverance.

My mom moves slowly but is as sharp and as funny as ever. She talked with me for over ninety minutes, last night. We had more than a few yucks. Currently, she is looking for a loaner guitar so she can start taking lessons at our local senior center. This has the making of hilarious possibilities.

My dad and I needed a good day. Yesterday was a very dark day for both of us. He told me how difficult life is for him at this time. He stated that he is lonelier now than at any time in his life. Dad loves the company of others more than most. When he is alone, he is truly difficult to witness. He is having a tough time sleeping at night.

Thankfully, He was able to move into a larger room by a window that overlooks a forest. Prior to this, he asked the head nurse,” What…do I have to wait for someone to die before I can get into another room?”

Dad eats all of his “hospital food” placed in front of him. He reminds me each day that when you are in a hospital, to clean your plate. He pushes himself to stay strong. He has long ago surpassed all my expectations so now I just sit with him and congratulate him on all of his successes.

I have never known my dad to ever be lonely. Seeing him struggle with life in a nursing home is quite difficult. He seems not intellectually challenged by his conversations with the staff and residents of his home. Dad is still able to complete a New York Times daily crossword puzzle with ink. Contrast that with contemporaries suffering from depression, boredom and dementia of some sort and you have a brutally tough environment to grow.

To put it simply, my dad needs visitors.

Thankfully, he had smiles for me as I left today. He rejoiced when seeing Tom Watson make the cut at the British Open.

Both of my parents continue to live one day at a time. Both continue to teach me lessons that I will keep forever.

Reader, especially expat teachers, if you have parents that are in the later stages of life, I sincerely wish you all the luck in the world. There are no secrets or hints that can help you. You truly are a bit helpless to affect much change.

Time, understanding and companionship are my only gifts that I can give them. 

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Living Buddha, Living Christ

Thich Nhat Hanh at Hue City, Vietnam (2007)

Thich Nhat Hanh at Hue City, Vietnam (2007) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)