Leadership in the Classroom

I would not be where I am in life today, if not for those who led me yesterday.

No phrase has ever rung so true for me, nor have I ever felt so inspired to be that leader for someone else’s tomorrow. As a teacher, I have the invaluable opportunity and ability to cultivate the minds of the next generation, and it is for that reason that I have honed my leadership skills. As a woman in the field of science, I must lead with a unique style. I must be gentle, driven, fierce, determined, and inquisitive, all at the same time. In my classroom, I must be an impeccable leader.

A good leader, leads from a place of love for others.

A good leader, is one that knows their people’s strengths and weaknesses at all times.

They are able to alter their leadership style to best suit the person in need and situation at hand.

They are capable of dissolving conflict and inspiring the unmotivated.

A good leader, is a teacher.

One who does not teach the next generation success, but rather teaches them the skills they need to be successful.

A good leader is an exemplar.

They strive to live their life in the same manner that they encourage others to live.

However, they are not without flaws.

A good leader is relatable, she is humble, she is capable of making mistakes, and capable of owning up to them.

A good leader, is one who does not need recognition to triumph, but recognizes other’s triumphs.

In my future as a teacher, I will empower my students without fail. I will believe in them without waver, I will encourage their curiosities without doubt. I will instill confidence in those who do not see it in themselves. I will treat each student individually, so that they may know what it feels like to be seen and heard. I will command my classroom first and for most with love, so that my students will understand that failure is a part of learning, and learning is to be celebrated.

Rather than leading in front, I will lead my students from the side, and watch as they accomplish great things.

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A letter to Ms. Thomsen: the woman who changed my life without either of us realizing it, until now.

As of late, I have struggled to answer the seemingly simple question, “Why do you want to be a teacher?” My struggle is not founded in uncertainty, but rather the inability to transcribe what is in my heart, to paper. Teaching is not only the career I have chosen, but the lifestyle that I choose to live every day: a lifelong devotion to encourage others, lend a helping hand, & ignite the curiosity that burns within all humans. I want to be a teacher, because what makes me happiest is positively influencing others. More than anything, I want to leave lasting, meaningful, & inspiring impacts on my students, whether they realize it or not.

In 11th grade, my chemistry teacher, Ms. Thomsen, asked each of us to think of someone who impacted us in our scientific lives. We were to dedicate our lab notebooks to them. It could be a scientist, a mentor, or an inventor, anyone really. I don’t remember who came to mind that September day at Milaca High School, but whatever name I wrote down 6 years ago, is drastically different than the name I would write down if asked to do the same today.

Ms. Thomsen was everything that I strive to emulate as a science teacher. She created a welcoming learning environment for all students, & motivated each of us to do our best & work hard. Rather than forcing us to simply regurgitate information about Chemistry, she encouraged us to get our hands dirty & DO science. She always brought lessons full circle, by showing us how they related to the real world, & she had a gift for instilling confidence in those who lacked their own. Perhaps most importantly to the younger version of myself, Ms. Thomsen modeled what it meant to be a fearless woman in a field dominated by men. I could write numerous essays about all of the incredible male science teachers that I’ve had over the years, but Ms. Thomsen was the first female science teacher I had in high school. If it weren’t for the passion that Ms. Thomsen brought to her classroom, I am not sure that I would have pursued science at the collegiate level at all.

It took me a long time to grasp that there is no limit on what we can discover through science, but when I did, I knew that I wanted to explore it all, & share it with others. I quickly realized I didn’t really want a career in science. Rather, a career devoted to unveiling the scientists within the next generation in hopes that I might inspire students to pursue careers in the sciences themselves.

In three months I will be tossing my cap at graduation, & like I dedicated my science notebook in 11th grade, I’d like to take the time to dedicated my degree to someone who inspired me. I am very passionate about science, & yes, scientists make incredible, noteworthy discoveries every day, but I have come to realize they are not who has inspired me most in my scientific life. My passions were in fact galvanized by my past teachers. Unfortunately, Ms. Thomsen passed during my freshman year of college, so I never had the chance to tell her how much of an impact she had on my life, or that I am now dedicating my life to being the type of teacher she was, but that isn’t the point of teaching, is it?

Interestingly enough, this is one of the aspects of teaching that I find most beautiful. I am not becoming a teacher because I expect my students to tell me that I changed their lives, but I AM becoming a teacher to change their lives. I want to be a teacher, because dedicated teachers played a crucial role in my life, expecting nothing in return & I feel that it is my calling to do the same for the next generation, whether they realize it or not.

A letter to my future high school teacher self, from the hopeful college aged you.

Dear Future Mrs. Scherer (Wonder Woman),

When you are in your 15th year of teaching, and you are growing tired of the repetitive days, rowdy students, critical parents, and boring curriculum, please remember why you went into this profession. Remember the words of Julie Williams, “[You] feel effusively alive when [you are] faced with the challenge of creating new understanding in the minds of students. ” (Williams 1). If one day you grow tired of finding ways to instill your students with genuine interest in learning please do not do what so many teachers do, teach the minimum. Remember that students need to learn more than what is required to do well on tests. More than what is written in the curriculum. Simply regurgitating information is not an education. Berliner and Glass point out that “training in STEM… may serve the labor markets but it is doubtful that it prepares children for a full and satisfying life.” (Berliner 6). Follow the lead of the teachers that inspired you to teach. The ones that taught you not only about science and grammar, but also about life, and the importance of knowledge, experience, and passion. Please remember the fire that your teachers once ignited in you, and strive every day to light that same fire in others.

If and/or when you become frustrated with the pressure to improve your students standardized test scores remember what you read in Finnish Lessons, “evidence suggests that teachers tend to redesign their teaching according to these tests, … and adjust teaching methods to drilling and memorizing information rather than understanding knowledge.” (Sahlberg 67). If you, like so many other teachers, adjust what and how you teach merely to see better results on these tests, your students will suffer. Stop allowing the pressure of improving test results to sacrifice the greater education of students. Please hold yourself to a higher expectation than the bare minimum. Each of the three books you read in EDUC 1101 point out failure of standardized testing to actually test what it means to have a good education; what it means to have a well rounded array of knowledge.

If we as teachers give students a passion of learning itself and a desire to understand, we will set them up for a lifetime of education, rather than 4 years of learning how to temporarily memorize and repeat seemingly useless information that will soon be forgotten.

Being a teacher is a very difficult career, because you didn’t just choose to be a teacher, you chose to be Wonder Woman. Show the student that no one expects to graduate, that you hold her to a higher expectation, push yourself to catch the interest of the boy in the back of the room not paying attention. Don’t let students slip through the cracks and merely go through the motions of the day. Remember that superman is not coming to save the day and change education. You chose to be a teacher because you wanted to make a difference in peoples lives. Don’t wait for someone else to be the change you want to see, because that is why schools are failing. Educators are sitting around waiting for someone else to waltz in and change the way things are done, because that’s easier than actually putting in an effort and going to battle for their student’s education every time they get an F on a test. Don’t forget that you have to show the kids your passion and genuine care for them to learn. Don’t become another teacher that kicks back and watches kids grow up through a broken system.

My Tail.

Having lived nowhere else but the small town of Milaca, Mn I have fallen into the rut

of expectations. I know what to expect at the store, at church, at school. However, in as little as the first week of my senior year I was thrown off quite a bit. In a small town school students don’t get away with breaking unspoken social rules without the entire student body hearing about it by lunch period, and if they do bravely wander into uncharted territory those bold choices come with an extreme amount of teasing. To my surprise this year I saw not one, but two girls wearing bushy fox tails to class. My peers wore those unruly tails to school even though they knew they would be teased. They made one very large fashion statement, and they made it holding their head high. That is what I want.

No, I don’t want to wear a tail; the fluffy extremities are far from my idea of taste, and I have confidence in my personal style. I just want to make a statement in the way I live. I consider myself a fairly well rounded person, but I don’t have my thing. My tail if you will. I’m not a ridiculously talented singer, and I’m not beauty pageant beautiful. I’m smart, but I’m not ingenious, and I’m athletic, but I’m not Olympic worthy. It’s not that I don’t give 100% every time I jump into the pool, step onto the field, or begin a test, it’s just that I haven’t found my niche. I haven’t found a place that I am clearly meant to be.

Every day I see people with confidence in their futures that I envy, and spending the next ten years of my life bewildered by where exactly I fit is an extremely terrifying idea to me. Impacting the outcome of students lives. Students that will go on to do great things that could change the world is what I dream of. I want to be an exceptional teacher, coach leader, and mentor, but achieving that goal is far from near. Years of hard-work, dedication, and even some ambivalence will lead me to the unshakeable confidence in my field that I so badly yearn for right now. I am looking for a certain answer in an unpredictable future.

I don’t want to be a nonconformist. I don’t dream of becoming the class valedictorian. I don’t want to think about what I want to do, or who I want to be. I want to know. I want to feel it with every muscle in my body, and every neuron in my brain. I want to wake in the mornings, get dressed and put on my tail. I imagine myself walking across a campus and making a statement. Walking back into a school as a teacher, and know that I will own my job. I want people to look at me and believe that I am one of those people who knows what they are destined for. One day I will stand tall on my pedestal.

I wrote this at the begging of my senior year of high school (and edited it now). That was almost three years ago. At the time I thought I was going to be a lawyer. I have now been through almost two years of college at two different universities, changed my major, and become more and more confident that I am walking towards my destiny every day. 

Sure, there have been days when I wonder if I’m doing the right thing. There are days when I hate my classes, and my current job working at an elementary school. But the moment that a light goes off in a kids eyes makes it all worth it, and more. The moment when I know I am making a difference in someones life, and lighting a spark of interest in in school for a teenager, that makes it worth every hard test, every late night studying, every assignment. 

Peeks of Memories

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Most students at UMD have spent a night driving along Skyline Parkway enjoying the view, and it is a past time I particularly enjoy. However, sometimes instead of looking at the beautiful lights along the lake bay I like to turn my attention to all of the houses along the road. If you go at the right time of night most families will have a couple lights on in their house and you can catch them eating dinner at the table or catching up on their favorite show on Netflix.

My mom is currently trying to sell my childhood home; it brings back a lot of memories that my little house in Milaca, MN holds. Good and bad memories, significant and insignificant, but all memories that built my family’s life together and made me who I am today.

When I drive on Skyline looking at the houses, I get to peek into these families lives one after another in an instantaneous moment. A moment that they may never remember, or perhaps a moment that will be engraved in their minds forever. Houses absorb these memories as if they are watching us grow, and in my beat up old car I like to imagine all the history that is wrapped up in the house, and the families inside it making their own histories that flash before me as I drive down the road.

I drive on without impacting the oblivious people who’s lives I just crossed paths with for a moment and continue on probably to never meet them again. And in a way this singularity is as beautiful as any view from Skyline could ever be.

The worst first date idea in the history of first date ideas.

Let me first start by saying that I am greatfully fearful of interactions with boys. I spent the last year and a half of high school with the same boyfriend, and yes. I grew comfortable.

*Flirting: If you don’t practice this on a regular basis, you’ll forget how to do it. And the only thing worse than not flirting with anyone, is attempting to flirt, and failing miserably. On a side note, if you’re in a relationship, never stop flirting with your significant other. That is a devastating costly mistake that so many make. *insert sad face here*

Now, I’m not the type of girl that is never single, and when I am single I’m not sleeping around with whatever boy happened to check me out at the party I was at last Saturday. However, there does come a time when being single just gets boring. When all your friends are going out on date night with their boyfriends, and you simply don’t want to sit inside and watch the 176th episode of Greys Anatomy by yourself (thank you Netflix). I have reached this point.

So about a month ago I decided to change out of my metaphorical pajamas, and slap some mud on my face (makeup). Why not talk to the boy living down the hall, why not chat up the cute upperclassmen from Exposition? Here’s why. I AM AWKWARD.

I’m not really shy or reserved, and by no means do I have a wall built up. I just don’t behold that unwavering rhythm that some girls have. I always imagine these girls as the short, skinny, blondies, that generally have a flock of boys following them. In reality lots of girls have this trait. I just happen to be a 5’6″ phony redhead with curves, and I lack the ease that others have when they meet new people. Don’t get me wrong, I have this type of chemistry with lots of people. Those people just happen to be acquaintances I went to high school with and I have known them since I was a tyke in kindergarten. College is different, a whole new playing field if you will.

So here I am stumbling about, attempting to contain my awkwardness, and figure out what makes this guy tick while simultaneously trying to decide if I’m actually interested in him or not, when he texts me and asks if I want to “watch a movie” when he’s done with work? Dear lord. First let me tell you how much I hate texting. I’m 19 and I will be the first one to admit that texting and social media have ruined the love lives of billions of my generation. Second, watch a movie? Why the actual fuck does this have to be a young mans #1 go to when they want to hang out?

So many things can go wonderfully in your favor when you watch a movie with someone you’re interested in, but here’s why its a BAD idea for a first date: #1 Let’s say that it’s very clear that there’s little to no chemistry cooking, and there is clearly awkward tension in the air. Neither of you really wants to continue sitting in the dark watching a movie that, let’s be honest, you’re not actually that interested in. Where is your escape? Interactive date ideas offer you a way to ignore the awkwardness even when the date is clearly steering in the direction of a cliff. Movies don’t come with an emergency exit button.

#2 Let’s say the movie is going great. Here comes THE move. You know it’s coming, but when? Forget about remembering what the movie was even about because chances are you will be more worried about when this guy is going to hold your hand or put his arm around you. Have you ever tried to subtly scoot closer to someone without being obvious or coming across as too forward? It’s actually quite near impossible, but have fun trying.

I don’t even want to talk about what happens if no one makes a move, because I’m not sure what’s more disappointing.

And then there is the quite realistic chance that tonight I will watch a movie with this guy, who I might possibly be into. He’ll hold my hand, and I’ll be completely content with it. I’ll leave his room, go to sleep in my own bed, and think back to why the hell I was so nervous in the first place.

But the point is, all of this could have been avoided if he wouldn’t have asked me to watch a movie. Save the movies for date 2 or 3 for goodness sake, and in the meantime save your girl a heart attack or two.

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