Kellie Keyser, 3rd Grade Teacher, Clark Elementary School
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
The most challenging aspect of teaching is finding balance. We, as educators, have to follow state standards and testing guidelines, while at the same time ensuring that we are meeting the needs of all of our students. A particular student may not be able to focus on learning about History SOL 3.1 because of a disagreement on the school bus that morning. I often have to take the time to develop problem solving skills before I can get to the “meat” of the lesson. You hope that these skills will transfer to academics, but even if they don’t we have a responsibility to educate the whole child. This can be tough when you have a large amount of academic material to cover in one short school year.
What’s the most common misconception about your job?
I have heard through the years, “but you have an outline of what you should teach, and you know what benchmark you have to meet, so it should be easy. At my job I am expected to meet my goals, and teachers should be expected to do the same.” Public schools are not a business, and a classroom cannot be run like a business. A few years into my career in education I heard “The Blueberry Story” (By Jaime Vollmer, Education Week, Volume XXI, Number 25, March 6, 2002). It is about a business man who made the best blueberry ice cream around. He thought schools should be run like his business and then they would produce superior students; it was simple, right? A teacher challenged this business man by explaining that he got to choose the best blueberries for his ice cream, but that educators work with the students who walk into our classroom doors and we cannot turn them away (not that we would). We teach students who are big, small, rich, poor, gifted learners, have learning challenges and everything in-between. This can make meeting benchmarks challenging, but we strive to see growth in every student.
Where do you see the teaching field in 5 years?
It is hard to predict what will be happening in education down the road, but I would like to see a shift back to thematic teaching, teaching through experiences, and differentiated assessments. Making more time for students to explore and focus on the act of learning rather than “getting through the material” would hopefully allow the public school system to produce more citizens who are life long learners.
What outside experience prepared you best to become a teacher?
I have wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. A characteristic that I believe is important for all good teachers is to have curiosity and the drive to never stop learning. My mom and dad showed me the love of learning by taking my sisters and I on trips where we could learn new things. Whether it be the National Zoo or to Colonial Williamsburg, they shared what they knew while encouraging us to read signs and ask questions of the guides. This has prepared me to foster curiosity and the love of learning in my students, when they ask questions we find out the answers together, I encourage them to ask an expert, or we experiment or explore.