Usually behind every teacher, there is another teacher who inspired them to be who they are today. When I was a young student in elementary school, my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Hodges, was so supportive of me. I dealt with the trauma of losing a parent when I was in her class, and the relationships we had built in the classroom made it possible for me to push on anyway. To her, relationships and making a community were the most important base in a classroom.
When I was in high school deciding what career to pursue, I looked back on those moments when I felt the most inspired and motivated, and I knew teaching was the career for me. I want students to feel at home in the classroom, and know that their ideas and thoughts will always matter. All children should feel welcome in my classroom no matter who they are and where they come from. I’ve always loved the community that teachers build, developing skills that children will use for the rest of their lives. Some of my professors at Millersville have told us that “teachers inspire and build the future generation. Our job is one of the most important ones.” This has stuck with me because it really is so true. Good teachers make an impact on students that often stays with them for the rest of their lives.
There are many influential educators that have paved the way in making the Education field what it is today. As an educator, you always hear names such as Friedrich Froebel, Jean Piaget, Maria Montessori, and Howard Gardner. While I agree with some of their discoveries and principles, I never felt that my philosophy aligned well with theirs. One person in the Education field that has helped me develop my own pedagogy and philosophy as a teacher is Rita Pierson.
I first heard about Rita Pierson in one of my classes at Millersville, because she had given a TED Talk. As I absorbed her words, I realized that she really was giving some of the most important core principles of being a teacher. Being a teacher is about building community and relationships, inspiring students to grow, and being the person who wants them to be the best version of themselves. Teaching is not easy and it’s hard to inspire your students, but we come to work even when we don’t want to in order to make a difference.
Pierson taught her students the saying “I am somebody. I was somebody when I came. I’ll be a better somebody when I leave. I am powerful, and I am strong. I deserve the education that I get here. I have things to do, people to impress, and places to go.” This quote really has become a part of me as an educator, because we all need a little motivation sometimes to build ourselves up to our potential. I plan to teach this saying to my students, to remind them that they deserve their education, and they are going to do amazing things if they stick to it.
Positivity and support are things that you don’t see much in school systems, and honestly we need more of it. In her TED Talk, Pierson discusses how writing a plus on the top of the paper does much more for students than writing how many they got wrong. When you just throw the negatives at students, it becomes a part of their mindset. I want to always be positive towards my students and give encouragement.
To me the most important section of her message was when she says “Teaching and learning should bring joy. How powerful would our world be if we had kids who were not afraid to take risks, who were not afraid to think, and who had a champion? Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.” As teachers, there is nothing more important than that. At the end of the day, we are the champions who inspire children to be the best version of themselves. They are the future. We owe it to our community and our students to prepare them to be creative thinkers, problem solvers, risk takers, and dream seekers.
To learn more about Rita Pierson’s message for educators, watch her TED Talk below!
TED Talk Subtitles and Transcript: Rita Pierson, a teacher for 40 years, once heard a colleague say, “They don’t pay me to like the kids.” Her response: “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.'” A rousing call to educators to believe in their students and actually connect with them on a real, human, personal level.