Teaching from the Heart
What got me involved in the educational field was my experience student teaching for a year at Dean Rusk Elementary School. Three days a week, I was assigned to teach, as an assistant, 24 third graders. I felt that this experience would be rewarding because a true test for a healer is to heal people who need it most. After two weeks of working at the school, the teacher, who was female, brought to my attention that the young black males in the class who had no fathers would do better academically when I was in the classroom than on the days I was absent. That is what convinced me that I was needed in the academic field.
It amazed me that academic performance by children could be altered by a simple motivational factor like a direct role model. I was aware of the statistical dominance of female teachers in the academic field, and I felt that as a male I would have a lot of influence on children who had no fathers or on children who had dyslexia. Of course, the group of students I imagined would look at me as a direct role model would be black males who have dyslexia.
I got so involved with the elementary school that I began to go to the special education classes and offer my services to the teacher. I really bonded with the kids in the special education class. I was teaching from the heart, and the kids’ biggest needs seemed to be a teacher who cared about them and their individual needs. The greatest reward for me was working with a child who began to read his first words after just three weeks.
Just like being a therapist, I feel that educating children is a form of healing. Working at this school was a confidence booster because if I could relate to these kids and get positive results, I knew I could teach anywhere. The measure of a great teacher is working with the most raw, unrefined students and making a change. It just seems too easy measuring a teacher’s ability when that teacher is already working with students who are successful in school.
In the middle of my last year in college, I knew that I wanted to work with children who had learning disabilities. I wanted to go to a graduate program that would be the best at providing me with the newest information. There were two events in my life that were extremely important. The first was graduating from college. The second was accomplishing the goal of getting into graduate school even though I am dyslexic.
Since leaving Atlanta, I have not taught in the classroom. I have no real experience as a teacher, but I do have some natural attributes that I feel may help me become an elite teacher. First, I have a natural love for children, and children get along with me very well. It is one of those nonobservable variables that exists between me and childen. I am far from being perfect, but I get along well with most children.
Second, I believe in chances, so I do not give up on people or children. I know that if I have a class full of kids, I would want all of them to be successful students. I believe in finding solutions to any and every problem. I don’t believe in quitting because of all my academic experiences. With all the chances I was given, I am going to give all of my students as many chances as they need to find themselves as students.
Third, I believe teachers need to bond with students. When I reflect on my favorite teachers in my life, they were teachers who were my friends, too. I see teachers wearing many titles besides TEACHER. I see psychologist, mother, father, friend, and adviser. I believe students react to my behavior. The more I give of myself, the more they will give back to me.
Fourth, I believe in a saying one of my favorite teachers told me: “Whatever you teach a child, it will not be digested completely by that student until he leaves your classroom.” I feel that learning is a slow process, and patience is a very crucial quality to have as a teacher.
Lastly, my best quality is I am very personal with all students. I work with kids and try to make them feel that I understand them. I am very stern on good morals and manners. I am not old fashioned. I just believe in respect, honesty, and truthfulness. I feel that children will be better students if they become better people. I will teach things that are not in the books. For instance, I believe that children will be better students if they like each other better or if they like themselves better. I believe that stability starts inside and then reflects out of a person. So, my tactics would involve molding the student completely. I feel this is how I would get the most out of my students. What makes me believe in my system is the fact that my favorite teachers had the same type of philosophies as I do.
How will my experiences influence change in the school system? I am soon to be a teacher who can influence change by my experiences as a victim of the system. I believe that if more teachers are aware of the signs of dyslexia and learning disabilities in the class, then less students like me will slip through the cracks of the system. I also feel that the special education programs need to be changed. From my personal experiences, I feel that special education needs to be a combination of one on one and group teaching.
I believe in fairness within the system. I just want all students to have an equal opportunity. I have a lifetime to devote to making the school system more balanced in any way I can.
© 1998 The Estate of Ennis William Cosby.