By Sally Kaplan, SED’17
This simple but significant phrase will forever echo around Phil Tate’s Introduction to Education classroom, following future freshmen teachers throughout their four-year journey and beyond.
Like most quotes, there is not an instant comprehension. As people, we never really learn a lesson until we have persevered through a position of weakness where the wise words of that lesson start to ring true. The same can be said when I first heard Professor Tate say this quote. I had just started my college career and at that point, the whirlwind of my first year had not settled yet. I thought I understood his overall point but as I progressed through my next three years, the lesson became clearer that the best teachers always allow for change in the classroom and never think they are done learning.
Sophomore year was spurred by the beginning of SO 210/211, a course designed to focus on the teaching and understanding of social justice issues inside the classroom. During this course, we not only took part in conversations about race and minority groups, which is a conversation that should not be so elusive to take part in, but we were also able to tutor a child with these themes in mind. Social justice issues surround all present day conversations, but these themes seldom find their way into the classroom, where they are most needed. Students should be informed and active because they are the figures that will hold future opinions, jobs, and decisions. For this reason, I was once again shown that teaching is never a profession with set objectives and practices. We, as the future teachers, need to be flexible to changing the typical mold of the classroom set by previous generations. We need to encourage social narratives to be written and engage our students in discussions about race, disability, class, and gender. These topics used to be taboo in the typical rote classroom, but as SED helps us evolve into modern teachers, I have seen how necessary it is to change the formula that used to guide the classroom. Teaching is not a set skill and when this class modeled how to allow students to take part in these social justice conversations, I once again changed my pedagogy to include these types of themes.
Trotter Elementary School is a staple in any Boston University Education students’ life. We partner with this school through tutoring, classroom studies and even Elementary Education club. For my methods CH300 course, we spend every Friday working with different classrooms in the building. I have found that SED does an amazing job pushing us to become the most creative and inspiring teachers, but this idea can still be somewhat romanticized until we’re in real-life classrooms like at Trotter. The reality is that students in any classroom might act out or wiggle because they can’t sit still. I love working with these students especially because they deviate so much from what we traditionally think of as teaching. Flexibility is needed to adapt not only lesson plans but also the mind-set that guides every changing classroom environment. It allows for changing practices and I now believe that teachers should always be open to new types of students, because that is the only way their practices will evolve.
I always had the idea that once I read all my readings and completed all the homework assignments given to me by my teachers, I would be a highly qualified teacher for any classroom. Although this is a nice idea to hold, it is almost refreshing to step into Trotter and see yet again that teaching is not just a program to complete and cannot be mastered. The best teachers carry with them a strong and supported pedagogy, but changing one’s ways is never considered a bad thing in the field of teaching; accepting that one will never master their field is the best lesson a teacher can learn.
As I continue into my final year at BU and hopefully into a classroom position after I graduate, I will always remember Phil Tate’s infamous statement that, “you will never master teaching.” It is hard to accept sometimes that as a teacher, you never reach a peak point or get acknowledged for learning all you can, but I also think this may be the best part of working in this field. As teachers, we are invited into a position where we can continue to learn throughout the rest of our lives; ironically, a learning position that we hope to inspire in all of our students. Teachers never need to feel stuck in the way they perform their job and the ability to always be changing and growing as a professional is a gift that many are not given. The only definite in our job is always considering the needs of our students and molding the classroom into the best environment for the children we are teaching. I still do not believe I have fully inhaled the essence of the lessons that are taught in our cozy SED building, and that is a fact I am very content with. Never stop being open to learning because sometimes the unknown or the place of insecurity is the place where you will gain the most.