Christine Jacobs, Math Teacher, Jack Jouett Middle School
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
The most challenging aspect of being an educator is ensuring that you meet every student’s needs while pushing them to each reach their own potential. Today’s classrooms are ever-diversifying with students from different cultural backgrounds, with specific disabilities, that speak different languages at home, etc. Each student comes to us with different strengths and weaknesses, and as teachers we have to not only differentiate our instruction, but we also have to differentiate for each student’s social/emotional needs. Building relationships, building community and establishing trust in a classroom is essential to fostering a learning environment where students feel safe to take risks. Throw in the inherent emotional needs of adolescents and some days you feel like it is the perfect storm. But when you love what you do, you come back each day eager to discover who needs what, and how you can help them.
What is the most common misconception about your job?
The most common misconception about my job is that I am a saint for teaching middle school. All too often people say, “You must have so much patience” or “Wow, I could never do that.” But I love it! I find adolescents to be at such a critical developmental age where all they want is for people to listen. They have the same needs as you or me. They are open, warm, funny and enjoyable to be around. I don’t consider myself a saint, I consider myself lucky. They teach me something everyday about patience, persistence and empathy.
Where do you see the teaching field in five years?
As we have seen for centuries, I see the teaching field in the next five years trying to keep up with changes in society. Adapting to the pace of rapidly changing technology, adjusting to the instant access to information and constantly searching for new and innovative ways to deliver instruction will likely keep the field of education evolving. However, the core of what we do will not change. We will still be working diligently everyday to inspire students to find pleasure in learning something new in the hopes that they will discover their own passions.
What outside experience best prepared you to become an educator?
Honestly, the loss of my parents early in my career was an experience that best prepared me to be an educator. It helped me to see that every person that walks through the door to my classroom has a story. It helped me to learn that I should never underestimate the potential of someone who is not working hard, or to never underestimate the emotional needs of a student that has an A in my class. Middle school students are just like you or me. They have stories. They are vulnerable and they are doing the best they can with the hands that they are dealt. Learning empathy early on helped me to build relationships with students from all walks of life. When a student has a bad day or refuses to do work, instead of getting frustrated, I stop and think, what hand was he/she dealt today and how can I help him/her navigate through what might be a challenging time for them.