Youth Profile in Action

Teaching truly is an art form, and it takes a skilled “artist” to know what exactly it takes to drive each student to achieve their best. Each classroom is a fluid, dynamic place; a combination of so many factors that it would be impossible to perfectly duplicate, and it takes the right combination of both talent and practice on behalf of the teacher to get the most out of every student. If they’re capable of doing so though, they can inspire students to do great things.

My AP Government teacher in high school, Mr. Conners, was one such teacher. Someone with a true passion for the subject, he was known school-wide for celebrating each president’s birthday in class and having campaign buttons for candidates that ran for office well over a century ago. While I already had some interest in politics and government, the lively debates, interesting presentation of content and high standard for work really fanned the flames of that interest. That class, as well as school trip he led up to New Hampshire to witness the presidential primaries firsthand was in part what inspired me to go to American University to study political science and later, middle and high school education.

Having spent the better part of my life as a student, getting to peek behind the curtain and see how teachers learn to teach has been very interesting. The most surprising fact I faced through my classes so far is that there really is no “right answer” when it comes to teaching. I have learned a great deal, but as one of my education professors has stated, “I can’t give you one-size-fits-all answers, all I can give you is a toolkit for you to pull out what tool you need, when you need it.” 

Earlier this fall I began teaching in the classroom; the last step in American’s program before becoming a full-fledged teacher. Even on my first day in my middle school just a few blocks away from Capitol Hill, I could see the truth behind that professor’s words. Teaching the same lesson three times a day rather than being on the student side, you can see all of the subtle (and not so subtle) tweaks that go into making a lesson fit a class. While the students in these classes may walk away with the same content knowledge, the path that they take to get there can vary greatly. 

This is just as it ought to be though—if the end goal is for the material to make sense and stick with the student, and every student is different, shouldn’t the way it makes sense and sticks with them be different as well? This is the reason teachers place such a premium on tools and skills, because they must be able to make changes on the fly that help 20 or 30 very different people ideally all arrive at the same place at the same time. The art of teaching is neither simple nor easy, but when done right it can yield amazing results.