One of the scenarios that I put interviewing teacher candidates in when I was on interviewing committees was, “Pretend that we hired you, and you’ve now been teaching here for 20 years. You run into one of your ex-students from your first year here in the district. What do they remember about your class?” This question, which is not a usual question that one gets asked, gets to the true heart of your philosophy about teaching. As a teacher you want to have impact on your students. Deep down you want them to remember key things that you taught them. Based on most answers, key things generally do not include content.
As a teacher I wanted kids to remember the caring atmosphere, that they became independent learners, the empathy they received, responsibility they developed, and that I was someone who would listen to them. These qualities gave me a better feeling of accomplishment, than if the only thing they remembered was something about the presidents, or what a great time they had at Splish Splash.
Having taught for 33 years, I got the opportunity to get the answer to the question that I’ve asked all these prospective teachers, by asking many of my ex-students, 20 years later, what they remembered about our class. Outside of a handful of students that felt that I was an important part of their growing up and had a great impact on them, most of them recalled things like, songs I sang like, “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight”. They recalled stories I’ve told. They recalled a part of my program called, “Magic Circle”, which was a program that allowed children to share their own stories about things that happened to them. Part of the Magic Circle program also had students reflect back to the sharers, what was shared, showing that they had been heard.
I find it interesting that the things that are most remembered from my teaching involve storytelling (songs being a form of it). Storytelling is such a powerful tool. We don’t realize how effective we are when we share stories, both within our curriculum and real life. When my son comes home from a class where a story was used to point out something in his learning, he is eager to share it and can usually remember minute details.
If my ex-students remembrances are any indication, teacher preparatory colleges should consider making Storytelling in the Classroom a mandated methods course.
So what do you remember most about your classes 20 years ago?