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In Appreciation of Teachers

by Sue Chapman, Professional Learning Specialist
May 08th, 2017

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My niece has been thinking about becoming a teacher and asked for my advice. Maia is a talented young woman with many career options and I found myself questioning why she should consider entering a profession which admittedly does not pay well, lacks the prestige it once enjoyed, and requires long hours outside the work day.

As I was paging through the preface of my dog-eared copy of About Teaching Mathematics, I stumbled upon Marilyn Burns’ story of her experience as a beginning teacher. When Marilyn began her first teaching assignment as a middle school math teacher, she vowed to be “a different kind of teacher” than those who had taught her, to teach for understanding and to help students see themselves as capable of learning mathematics. However, Marilyn soon realized that she had reverted to the same ineffective instructional methods her own teachers had used. She also recognized that these methods were not working for some of her students and she chose to hold onto her belief that there was a better way to mentor students into a relationship with mathematics.

“If you want a career which will require you to learn every day, always stretching to become your best self in service of your students, then you can’t do better than teaching. Without question, teaching is a way to make a positive difference in the world.”

Marilyn invested time and energy in her own professional learning through self-study, experimentation, and collaboration with colleagues who shared her vision for what mathematics teaching and learning could and should be. Her commitment to helping students learn mathematics with understanding eventually expanded from her own classroom to teachers and classrooms everywhere.

Marilyn Burns has frequently written about the messiness of teaching and the teacher learning that occurs in the midst of attempting to facilitate student learning. Marilyn knows that good teachers are not born, but instead grow in their effectiveness every day through a commitment ongoing practice-based professional learning. Teaching requires thinking and sense-making in the same way that learning mathematics requires thinking and sense-making. Teaching is a true learning profession.

I am enormously grateful to our current and future teachers for choosing to do this important and challenging work. Thank you for your willingness to be a learner alongside your students so you can provide them with the best learning opportunities possible. Thank you for helping students to see and realize their potential.

And so, Maia, if you want a career which will require you to learn every day, always stretching to become your best self in service of your students, then you can’t do better than teaching. Without question, teaching is a way to make a positive difference in the world.

 

Sue Chapman, Professional Learning Specialist Math Solutions

Sue Chapman is a professional educator, presenter, and author who has devoted over 30 years to instructional improvement and mathematics education. Throughout her career, Sue has served and taught in several different areas of professional education, including instructional and leadership positions. Sue’s passion for professional learning and her ability to inspire teachers to come together around a shared vision of success have been instrumental in helping schools and districts develop systems and internal capacity to achieve continuous improvement of mathematics instruction.

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