What Is Meaningful Teaching?
Teaching for Meaning
What Teaching Means to Me and Why I Still Do It
Copyright 2009, Jennifer Tyler
Being in the field of education has made me think a lot about the students that I work with on a daily basis. When I was in school I can remember things being so much different than they are today. Even though it was not that long ago I can remember not questioning what was done in class and just doing it. However, now that I look at it today’s students seem to be so different. In fact, as a teacher I realize that students today need more out of their education. One of the reasons I believe this is the case is because of the vast home lives students come from and the various issues that students face today. Many of the students that I have worked with come from dysfunctional homes or broken homes. This tends to create many problems, both emotional and behavioral. As a teacher today it is important to keep this in mind when working with your students. Teachers today need to evaluate the background of their students and use this information to better serve them (Council for Exceptional Children, 1999). Not every studentthat we encounter is the same or comes from the same place. Due to this, it is important forteachers to get to know who their student’s are.
Meaningful teaching is more than just parlaying knowledge to students. Meaningful teaching involves showing students that you care for them and their education. Students need to know that teachers are there to help them with various issues. When I see that my students have learned something from me I know that I have done my job as a teacher. Meaningful teaching experiences involve finding out what works with your students and trying different techniques that will enable them to succeed in their lives (Council for Exceptional Children, 1999 & National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, 2004). When I have a student tell me that they really enjoyed a lesson or a project that we did I know that it meant something to them. This is an experience that cannot be taken for granted. Many of the students that I have worked with are difficult at best, so when a student tells me that he or she liked something that means a lot to me.
The relationship between thinking, teaching and learning is one in which both the educator and student learn from one another. Yes, I am required to go to school to learn all that I can about my students so I can help them succeed. However, as an educator I am also apt to learn a great deal from my students. There have been many instances where I have had a student pose a question that has made me think about things and thus try to put them into perspective. The connection between thinking, teaching and learning goes far beyond being a teacher. It is about being someone who can listen to the ideas and thoughts of others and incorporate them into the learning process.
For me there never was any question about why I wanted to teach kids. I can remember being a little girl and playing school with my stuffed animals. From that day on I knew I wanted to be a teacher. However, it was not until my experiences in college that I wanted to teach special education students. At that time I started thinking about teaching special needs students. Then after I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree I started working with an autistic adolescent. That assignment was the most challenging one I would ever undertake. However, it was also one in which I really enjoyed. Seeing the progress that had been made with my student was enough to convince me that I wanted to work in this field. In 2000 I moved to Pennsylvania where I secured a job as a special education teacher in a juvenile facility. After working in this assignment I realized that I really enjoyed working with these kids who had been labeled as being bad or incapable. I knew that every person was capable of achieving success and this made me want to help them do just that. So, here I am hoping to continue this trend of giving these kids the chance that they deserve.