The thing that makes teaching different is that we’re in the People Business. We specialize in working with, bettering, engaging, building, caring for and building up people. That’s a difficult concept to really let sink in. Our end goal isn’t a profit. Instead, our end goal is to provide skills and a core belief in our students that they can become independent, creative thinkers and doers and intelligent human beings. We are invested in the essential elements of who and not in what. We (should) focus on process, not product and thereby as teachers, we have a very large bill to fill.
My husband comes home every night regaling me with tales of how he was able to make his company money that day, through various interactions and ideas he implemented in his work. I come home and talk about how I worry if a student is understanding my material because he came to school hungry that day. One profession is not better than the other – they are just inherently different.
To that end, we need to remember a couple of things about people, since they are who we serve:
1.) People need time. Everyone needs this precious commodity. Time is scarce, but in order for people to learn anything well and with meaning, we must consciously provide them with the time they need to listen, manipulate, talk about and process information.
2.) People are human. This seems like such an obvious statement, but sometimes I think we truly forget this fact. People are not perfect and they are not toys to be played with. They are ALL human beings who deserve respect, dignity, understanding and forgiveness. Yes, you’re going to run into people who are horrible to you – they are having a human moment (maybe for a very long time). Allow them to be human, acknowledge and accept the positive points and the negative flaws and move on.
3.) People have feelings. We are not in the business of working with inanimate objects. We don’t work with heavy machinery, money, or even ideas. Because we work with people, we must understand that they have feelings about what, how, why, and where we say and do things. Be cognizant of this fact and always think before you act.
4.) People need to interact. Sometimes I think we just give students (or our staff) papers to get them to sit still, do their work and leave us alone. We think that teaching them to be independent learners is to only give them independent work. This couldn’t be further from the truth! People need to be able to talk, work and think together. Helping them to be independent is by providing them with opportunities to engage with their peers and to make those important connections.
Yes, people are tricky business.
Working with people all day long sometimes makes me want to crawl in bed at the end of the day, shut my door and sit in pure alone-ness. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Because working with things and ideas just can’t hold a candle to the pure passion I feel when I make a connection with just one person. And the fact that I get to do this all day long and connect with hundreds of people makes it even better. Enjoy being in the people-business – there’s nothing like it in the world!
Susan Riley is the founder and President of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and Arts and the Common Core.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.