I am beginning this Outside Voices from the Inside feature with someone I know very well and whom I am quite biased about because she happens to be one of my teaching partners.
Her enthusiasm for social studies is infectious and she is always willing to humor me when I thrust a bounty of books upon her that I think might be helpful to integrate into her lessons. She is the epitome of a team player and when you see her eyes light up with excitement, be careful: no shoulder is safe as she will most certainly accost you with delight and ardor, declaring, “Get out!” or “No way!” or my personal favorite, “Are you serious?”
Kaitlin tweets at @KaitPopielarz.
What initially drew you to a career in education?
I wanted to be my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Karsten. That was the kick start to my desire to become a teacher. I grew up having incredible social studies teachers that fueled my love of the subject. I was also always involved in tutoring, day camps, and working with younger kids. I absolutely loved the feeling of helping a student, coaching, or teaching people above my love of social studies.
When I was a junior at Michigan State, I had a very influential professor and teacher education class. My eyes were opened to the ways in which education can change the world. I know that without that class, I would not be the teacher I am today. It gave me the drive to be a teacher and it helped to realize education is my vocation.
What motivates you as a teacher?
There are so many motivational factors that give me the courage to teach. To begin, I strongly believe that education, in all of its forms, is the single greatest vehicle for change in our world. I believe that education can make the world a better place and, as a teacher, I can be a part of this movement.
My students motivate me to be in the classroom. I get such a rush teaching them about various social studies topics. I live for the “a-ha!” moments my students have when they finally understand a difficult topic. I love hearing questions, thoughts, and prompts from my students that I have never thought of before, which challenge me to be a better person.
I also believe that education is my vocation. I know that I am meant to be a teacher and I know that the classroom is my home. I never feel more alive than when I am in a beautiful and productive learning environment with my students. Being a teacher is not just my job, it is who I am as a human being.
What has been your best classroom memory thus far?
During my student teaching year, I taught high school world history. I had one student who really struggled academically and needed to pass my course to move onto the next grade. For the final exam, he really prepared and studied but on the day of the test, he panicked. This student ended up completing the test with me after school once he regained his composure. When he finished, I quickly ran the test through the Scantron so I could tell him his score. My student had passed with flying colors and was really able to show how much he had learned throughout the trimester! We screamed, jumped up and down, and ran through the hallways. The librarians gave us the funniest looks. It was pure joy and a perfect way to wrap up my year of student teaching.
What do you want the future of education to look like?
I want the future of education to be about what all students need to succeed.
In the future, I see schools with equal resources and plenty of supplies. I see safe and welcoming schools where students feel completely at home. I see students that are recognized for their ability to think outside the box rather than their standardized test score. I see students and teachers working together to foster thriving learning environments. I see students with teachers who are respected and adored for all that they give to their vocation.
I believe that one day, education will not be a debate or political struggle. One day education will be completely about the students and how we can give them the classrooms they deserve.
What do the words “use your outside voice” mean to you?
This phrase is so inspirational to me! It is encouraging and gives me confidence that I need as a teacher. It also makes me feel a part of a greater teacher community. In our own unique way, we are all striving and pushing to have our voices heard in order to benefit our students and vocation. Using our outside voices will keep us going each day.