Lighting the Fire
Lighting the Fire
I attended Milwaukee Public Schools for my entire pre-university educational experience. The schools I attended were a healthy mixture of racial, religious, socio-economic and educational styles. As a contrast to my urban school experience in Milwaukee, some of my most vivid memories were of attending a one-room schoolhouse 2 miles down the road from my grandparent’s farm, I can still hear and see the teacher stepping onto the steps of the wooden structure and ringing a hand bell to let us...
I attended Milwaukee Public Schools for my entire pre-university educational experience. The schools I attended were a healthy mixture of racial, religious, socio-economic and educational styles. As a contrast to my urban school experience in Milwaukee, some of my most vivid memories were of attending a one-room schoolhouse 2 miles down the road from my grandparent’s farm, I can still hear and see the teacher stepping onto the steps of the wooden structure and ringing a hand bell to let us know that it was time to come in to start lessons. I only attended when possible, when I was at the farm, and I was always welcomed and included. This experience planted a seed, an idea that stays with me continuously. Embracing others, inclusiveness and humanity are the universal keys to educating young people. After I finished both my undergraduate and graduate programs of study at The University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee in May of 1972, I embarked upon my career as a teacher in Milwaukee Public Schools. For 31 years I taught in the most challenging schools in the inner city: North Division HS, South Division HS, Lady Pitts Alternative HS (for pregnant and parenting teen-age girls), Hamilton HS and others as well. The students I was given to instruct were “non-compliant” in the extreme. I found it necessary to rely upon the development of my own humanity and respect for diversity and different (and sometimes unorthodox) ways of doing things to develop a teaching style that was patient, persistent, creative, personal and engaging. In short, my students taught me how to make education meaningful and fun. I learned from them much more than I ever taught them. My entire 31 year experience was an extended exercise in profound personal growth. And I loved it! When I retired from MPS in June of 2003, I turned to the supervision of student teachers for both The University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and, primarily, Cardinal Stritch University. I also became a graduate instructor for McPherson College – Milwaukee Center and Viterbo University’s Outreach Program. I wrote the curriculum for two courses I taught to educators that tried to illustrate the lessons in engagement, management, relationship building, creativity and storytelling that I had developed during my years in the classroom. They were well received and I continue teaching them to this day. I also mentored teachers for various urban school programs involved in the school choice program through the Sally Ride Academy (now Wisconsin Education Innovation). During my entire educational career the hand bell that beckoned me into the one-room country schoolhouse was never forgotten. It remained firmly planted in my imagination. Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge will get you from A to B, but imagination will take you anywhere.” Listening to and observing students carefully, presenting content and curriculum with imagination and engagement uppermost in my mind, and a sincere belief that varied students have diverse ways of expressing their knowledge and competence. These are just a few of the qualities I have developed that make me believe that I would be an effective and engaging tutor/instructor. I have learned to work cooperatively with parents and students, to “make things work” when obstacles appear and to be part of an educational team that has a common purpose and philosophy. As a concluding point I will say that Cardinal Stritch University has trained me well in the latest educational standards and student engagement strategies.
An example of my approach to creative and stimulating instruction can be found in my free on-line resource I have developed for educators for use in the classroom. It is a site that includes posts/lessons that include text, pictures, videos and “connections” which make stories about history, people, and, language interesting and engaging to young people. It is aimed at high school and middle school students and has proven useful to many educators across the U.S. Nearly 270,000 teachers have visited the site and used it to enhance instruction, gather information, and engage students in a socially relevant way. The site expresses strongly my belief that teaching should be rigorous, relevant and artistic. My creative, non-linear teaching style that relies upon telling a good story is well displayed in this, my creation. In the end, teaching is a human pursuit.
As Irish poet William Butler Yeats said, “Education is not the filling of a bucket, it is the lighting of a fire.” This, in short, is my approach to education and relationships with students.
Jerald hasn’t set a schedule.