One of the greatest aspects about Cornell is the initiative to bring great guest lecturers to campus! This past week, I had the opportunity to attend a presentation by the 2011 National Teacher of the Year. Michelle Shearer is an AP Chemistry and AP Physics teacher from Maryland and has spent the last year traveling across the world advocating for the teaching profession. While Michelle shared many wonderful examples and ideas with our teacher education program students, the most important lesson I took away from her lecture was that teaching should not be someone’s back-up plan. In the United States, teachers were once revered and respected-so much so that in colonial times it was an honor to host the town’s teacher in your home. Today, however, teaching is often looked upon as an ‘easy profession.’ I’ve heard it countless times during my time at Cornell: ‘You came to Cornell just so you could be a teacher?’ or the statement that gets me fired up most, “If I don’t get that job, at least I can always be a teacher as a back-up plan!” Michelle explained how she had wanted to be a teacher ever since middle school; and how to this day she continues to hear how teaching is a back-up plan.
The title of this post is someone’s attempt to sum-up teaching in six words; and I think its a great summary. Teaching is not just about knowing the content of your field. There a hundreds of brilliant physicists, biologists, and chemists throughout the nation; yet teaching requires relationships and an attitude of dedication to ensuring that each student gets what they need from the classroom environment. Michelle Shearer was inspiring to listen to and I hope that some day, I can advocate for teaching so that teaching is elevated to a highly sought after career path.