Six years ago I paused to reflect on life, poised to fulfill a long-awaited dream to teach high school. Although I was still three months away from beginning this new career with my placement at Beaver Dam High School, I was eager to be part of a profession in which many of my colleagues seemed to be running from. While I hoped to secure a teaching position in Wild Rose where I live, destiny and fate took me seventy miles to the southeast where I have enjoyed six years of teaching Economics to juniors and seniors and Global Studies- Eastern Hemisphere to fun-loving freshmen. I've yet to experience a day when I questioned my decision to return to the classroom.
My best days as a teacher are ones when I grapple with new ideas to my class, knowing students will ponder on once they leave my classroom...perhaps even discussing what they learned with one of their parents. Sometimes the realization is quickly absorbed, while other times it takes days to sink in. Regardless, I leave school every day feeling energized knowing I was living my purpose. "Purpose" is a key component of feeling relevant in my teaching and making a connection that I'm doing what I was born to do.
Within my initial tenure at BDHS I've attempted to make my classroom a warm and inviting place for students as I consider atmosphere key to forming a community of trust and learning. Based on my experience in the business world, much of the dysfunction in the workplace can be traced to a lack of trust; hence my focus on allocating time and effort to discuss character and competence. I sense that many of us, whether young or old, fail to genuinely talk and listen to one another. If I practice this on a regular basis, students come to know that I'm willing to go the extra mile.
Just this past week I received an email from a former student who left the district at the end of his freshman year as a result of his father being transferred to another city almost two hours away.
"Hey Mr.D. I just wanted to let you know how this move to Wausau has been for me since you helped me towards the end of the year with my whole football situation and motivating me in general. So far it’s been pretty well and my coach really appreciated/was impressed with that email that I sent him which was overall your idea which I thank you for. It really helped with my introduction into the new school. I unfortunately have fractured my right thumb and tore a ligament in it during practice which has resulted in me being put into a cast. However I’m still able to practice and play as long as I have it fully padded. Not the best circumstance to be in right now but I have to make it into something better than what it is. I just wanted to thank you for helping me out enter the football program in a much more positive way and influencing that email. Hope you’re doing well Mr.D!"
These are the moments that make teaching all so rewarding...seeing how a former student creates intention in order to take advantage of an opportunity to better themselves in new surroundings. It involves being optimistic (yet also very realistic) about life and the importance of learning, the key ingredient in my specific style of teaching.
With six years of teaching now behind me, it's time to look ahead to the final six. I see myself at the 50 yard line contemplating changes that will take place in the community, state, country as well as the rest of the world. It's pretty exciting, yet still challenging. I remain the oldest teacher in the school, but also one who teaches with a young heart. My passion for teaching (and learning) burns stronger than ever. While some might choose to coast to the finish line, I have every intention to push myself with new and creative ways to enhance education in my classroom. I remain confident that my best days as still to come and tomorrow will be pretty special for Mr. D!