Guest blogger: Jeff Henning-Smith, PhD Student, University of Minnesota Elementary Education
Teachers often want to be remembered. A bittersweet aspect for many teachers lies in the loss of their class at the end of each school year. There is no surprise in the loss, and in fact, many teachers, aware of their fleeting time, desire to live on in the memories of their students. What will students remember about their class? What learning will stay with them? What experiences will they recall year after year, and most importantly perhaps, how will they remember their teacher? This question represents an important barometer for teachers, but, especially for beginning teachers, it can have a profound impact on their pedagogical development. How we want to be remembered has the power to alter how we operate in the present and plan for the future. What do teacher statements on how they want to be remembered tell us about how they see teaching as an act of doing and a way of being? Could they be seen as an indicator of their own pedagogical beliefs, or the normed beliefs they feel obligated to espouse?
Teachers are surrounded by discourses regarding what it means to be a teacher at every level of their teacher development. They are exposed to, explicitly and implicitly taught, and asked to exhibit (and be evaluated on) a wide variety of abilities and dispositions that at times overwhelm, contradict, and possibly re-prioritize the very qualities they are being asked to demonstrate. This pedagogical tension is present in all teachers, but especially in beginning teachers, as they attempt to find and develop their teacher identity. How do we then acknowledge, embrace, and ultimately, better support this pedagogical tension?
When asked how they want to be remembered, teachers often express a desire to be seen as a caring and intelligent person, capable of supporting both their students’ emotional and academic needs. Based on the responses I got last summer from a group of amazing beginning teachers, it is clear to me that thinking about how they will remembered is a daily act. One teacher told me that she hoped her students would say that “She believed in me and saw my good,” and another said he hoped they would say, “He helped me learn new things and be excited about learning.” These statements reflected a hope teachers had on how they wanted to be remembered in the future, but they were also statements on what kind of teacher they wanted to be in the present.
I think in the end, teachers want their work to have mattered, to have left a mark. They, like one teacher wrote, “want [their] students to say…that they will miss me.”
How do you wish to be remembered by your students?