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Insights from the Intersection of Childhood and Education

Friday, January 25, 2013

Blurring the Lines: On Being a Teacher First, and an Individual Second

Ask any teacher and he’ll tell you: when you’re in the classroom, nothing else matters. All of the other stuff—your flat tire, the service call for your stove, your spouse’s presentation—is relegated to the back of your brain. In these moments, the kids in front of you are paramount.

What many do not realize is that even outside of the classroom, this kind of mentality is still partly true. No matter what a teacher does outside of school, he is always a teacher first.
 
Ready! Set! Go! preschool teacher Susan Carton is a perfect example of that. In her private life, Susan has many artistic talents. In addition to painting and gardening, she is also a master paper-maker. In fact, Susan has created many of her own cards. (Take a peek at some of them!) Recently, she took paper making to the next level, illustrating a book made entirely out of her own, hand-made paper. 

So what did she choose to illustrate? A favorite classroom song, of course: “This Old Man.”

“I have always loved that song,” writes Susan on her blog, “Pulp Paper Scissors.” “That little ‘knick-knack-paddy-whack’ captures my imagination. What exactly does it sound like and what makes that sound? … And who is this old man anyway?  I made him a not-so-old musician.”

Susan’s book is beautiful; her pictures filling the holes in the song that ultimately help tell a story. After all, storytelling is a favorite activity in Ready! Set! Go!
 
Rabbi Jeffrey Holman, Director of the Judaic Studies, also loves marrying his own talents with his experience as a teacher. Formerly a computer science major, Rabbi Holman incorporates technology into his classroom on many occasions, and in completely nontraditional ways. Once, he created a video game for his students to help teach them the vocabulary of the chapter they were studying in the Torah. The student was a virtual pilot, and the only way to keep the plane up in the air was to gain more fuel—which could only be achieved by matching the correct Hebrew word to its English counterpart.
 
“Teaching is a work of the heart,” says Rabbi Holman. Because of that, the line between the classroom and your personal life can get blurred. It’s easy to forget about that line entirely, which is why so many teachers spend so much time at home--and why bring their own talents into the classroom.”
 
And we, the school, are happier for it.

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