For some time now I’ve been passing LeVon’s classroom on my way up the hall. I remember meeting him the first time in a staff development meeting where he launched himself up upon a desk – he’s quite the athlete. Ever since, we’ve spent time occasionally sharing experiences about being male in an elementary school. Here are my 10 questions that he’s been kind enough to answer. I hope by sharing these with you, it offers another insight into what it means to teach today.
1. Why did you become a teacher?
My mom taught in Chesterfield County for thirty-one years as a Special Education teacher; so I have been around it my whole life. My undergraduate degree is in Computer Science. But, the Spring Break of my first senior year at JMU, I went on an alternative Spring Break in Camden, New Jersey with the fellowship that I was involved in. We had the chance to work with inner city kids. It was a pretty life changing experience seeing how much they appreciated what we were doing, and the connections that we were able to make in just a short time. I contrasted what I had spent my undergrad doing in Computer Science, and thought about the difference and relationships that I had watched my mom make in addition to my experience on the trip. The choice seemed like an easy one.
2. What has been your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge has always been my first 3 years teaching in Henrico. I felt like I was taken through the fire in my experience there. Most everything in comparison to that seems much easier.
3. What do you think makes you successful?
In relation to question number 2, I would say faith in Christ that gave me a hope that never waivers, my mom’s encouragement during that time, and a supportive staff, mentor, and administration that bonded because of the pressures of the environment.
4. How do you start your first day, first week of school?
If we are talking about my first day of teaching, it was a hectic one. My classroom was under construction (they were taking a big class and splitting it into two, and I wasn’t truly allowed to move in until the Friday and Saturday before school began. Figuring out how to structure the classroom, implement the lessons in a timely manner, and control “everything” that goes on in a classroom that college could never prepare you for has always been a live and learn type process.
5. Do you have any daily norms?
Plenty outside of school. But inside the realms of the school building, one of the things that I have grown to treasure is greeting students in the hallway while on hall duty in the mornings. I love being able to watch former students grow, meet others, and being able to just be goofy and encourage them in the morning as they are walking by.
6. How do you motivate?
This can be a tough one given the age of the students and the rigors of the SOLs. Adult-hood is so far away from the 1st graders that I teach. My motivation for doing this is based on how having a solid education will help them out later in their lives. That is a difficult argument to push to a 6 year old that is only looking forward to lunch and recess. But ultimately I try to scale it back and express that what they are learning now is a foundation for them to be able to move into 2nd grade. Whether they enjoy school or not, they are ALL excited about moving on to the next grade and getting older with more responsibility. Understanding a little of what it takes to be in a place that some of the older students that they look up to are in often times motivates them to push a little harder.
7. Favorite subject / topic?
Hands down, Reading. I love teaching the fundamentals of reading and waiting for that “lights on” clicking moment for them. Reading can take you anywhere that you want to go in this life. It can help you in Science, Social Studies, Music, Art, PE, and even Math. Once they figure out what their interests are, all they have to do is pick up a book and dive in. Non-Fiction boring? No problem! Pick up a fictional book and get lost for hours in another world. I love reading!! I also love the moment my students go from, “I can’t read” to not wanting to stop.
8. How do you teach challenging students?
Cliche aside… I think the most important thing with challenging students is to somehow make a connection with them. This is not always the easiest of tasks… and sometimes it doesn’t happen. But if you can make a connection with them, they begin not wanting to let you down.
9. Best memory teaching?
Every year around May when the picture begins to come clear about how much growth everyone has made from September.
10. What do you think most people don’t know about the teaching profession?
The sheer hours that are put in, even if you are not spending them in the actual school building.
I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on LeVon’s experiences and thoughts on teaching. Please leave a comment on my site to encourage others to do the same – thank you!