Why I Became an Educator

I was in sixth grade when the art teacher (Ms. Marie Ifolio) at my school (I had known her since fourth grade) had made special arrangements with my teacher and the Principal. She had worked it out so that I could be her “teacher’s assistant” when she taught art to the kindergarten classes. I loved it! I can still remember the day, when we were walking from my class to the other end of the school, towards the kind. classroom. As we were turning the corner by library, she told me, “Mike, one day you’re going to make a great teacher.”

Now I was not a big fan of school. It wasn’t my favorite place. I was relatively successful, but still not my thing. So the last thing I wanted to be was a teacher! Well I helped her with other classes and summer schools until I went into High School. She was truly a huge influence on my life. I still tie-dye today because of her as well!

Until my sophomore year of high school, I really hadn’t given much more thought to being teacher. That is until I met my honors geometry teacher. I won’t mention his name, but the turning point was one day when I did very poorly on a test. I went to him after school to ask for help. His response, “Well it’s a little late now isn’t it?”

I couldn’t believe he said that. I thought I knew the material, but obviously I didn’t know as well as I should and need his help. This was in the early 1980’s before Google, lol. It was that day that I decided to become a teacher to counter act this poor teacher. I would at least be able to cancel his negativity.

You never really know how a teacher’s influence will impact the lives of their students!

Ask WHY to transform school!

whyI read this article from ASCD titled “Transforming Schools Starts with Asking Why?” That’s my favorite question, why! But over the years I have been amazed at how often I had to explain this to people. Too many times people thought I was challenging them personally and wanted them to defend themselves. But that’s just not the case.

Instead, I started explaining, that asking why was my favorite type of question and that I was not asking them to justify or defend. Rather I wanted to better understand their point of view. I then joke that, “I failed my mind reading class at school, so I need you to share your thinking.” that usually brings a smile.

A great technique is the 5 W’s. No not who, what, where, when, why, and sometimes how. It’s why, why, why, why, and why. No really! When you ask someone to explain their thinking keep asking why. It usually takes five to really get to the root of the thinking. For example, if you ask…

Why #1: Why do you do it that way?
A: Because I’ve always done it that way.

Why #2: Why have you always done it that way?
A: Because that’s the way I was taught how to do it.

Why #3: Why was it taught to you that way?
A: Because that’s how the instructor did it.

Why #4: Why did the instructor do it that way?
A: I don’t know

Why #5: Then why do you still do it that way.

Always ask why and keep trying to get to the root of the thought process to keep improving schools and student learning!