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  • Writer's pictureEmma Nichols

finding my place in the education system

I've known for years that I love teaching. It feels like a skill that just comes naturally to me. Being here, it truly feels like a dream come true.

It's hard to remember exactly when my passion for teaching started. I do remember, however, that when I was younger, one of the most common words classmates used to describe me was "bossy". It used to bother me so much back then because even though I knew it was true, it still made me feel as though my approach to showing or telling someone how to do something was worse than if I had just never helped at all. Yes, this was all running through my eight-year-old head. Now, at an older and (hopefully) more mature age, I realize that my approach was not necessarily worse than doing nothing - but that said approach often came off as aggressive and matter-of-fact, and was not always useful for every type of learner. As I went through school on my own, I found this to be true in my own case, and for many of my classmates as well.

I would call myself a good student. At the end of my twelve years of public school education, I graduated with mostly A's and B's, and a couple of C's in high school as well. But sometimes I wish I could go back and do it over. Now, that's not to say that I am unhappy with where I am at right now - I am so grateful for every twist and turn that brought me here, to France, where I am pursuing many of my passions each day; but it's interesting to think back, now that I am on the other side of the scale, teaching and helping students every day, to when I was in their position, and how knowing what I know now, maybe it could've helped me to achieve more when I was a primary student.

As I mentioned before, I was labeled as "bossy" when I was younger, which made me more hesitant to automatically help as I got older in fear of being a "know-it-all" or other, but I didn't realize that all I really needed was to just hone in my energy towards teaching and use it in a more accessible way to help others. If you know me personally, you know that I have a lot of energy. So you can see how someone who is really energetic, eager, and enthusiastic about helping others with classwork can come off as somewhat unappealing to someone who isn't interested in learning in the first place. I experienced it all throughout school, but mainly in high school. But it wasn't until I began vocal lessons with a new coach around age thirteen that I truly began to understand the importance of creating a "voice", so to speak, to use specifically to teach or help the majority. Let me take some time to explain what I mean.

Through watching my coach guide me through the ins and outs of my voice, I realized that I wasn't solely learning how to sing better. At my first lesson, I was extremely nervous, knowing that she was an incredible coach with rave reviews from anyone who knew her or studied with her. I realized that one reason she was so successful was that she took the time to explain why she was teaching what she was teaching, and her goal for helping others like me. From the beginning, I could understand where her priorities were and how I would need to work hard to reach the goals we set together, but that feeling only made me more excited to get started.

As the years went on, I grew closer to my coach, realizing that her lessons seemed to create a bigger impact on me, more than just teachings about my voice and music. I realized I wanted to become a teacher like her so that in the future, I could influence students just like how she continued to influence me in many aspects of my life. After years of lessons with my coach, I realized that everyone has a different reason to teach, but the most successful teachers I have met have been so passionate about what they teach. Once I made this discovery, it seemed easier to understand why I didn't always get along with all of my own teachers in the past. There were some classes that I was so interested in throughout high school because I knew that my teacher was passionate about the subject and truly believed in what they were teaching (for example, French, anatomy and physiology, literature), but I struggled in classes where teachers didn't want to explain how applicable this subject would be in my future. I realized that no matter how loud you are, no matter how bossy you are, no matter how great of a leader you are: learning anything is ten times easier and more exciting when you can see how applicable that subject or teaching is in real life.

So, after learning that a) to be a versatile teacher, you have to use language and approaches that every person can understand and benefit from, b) that being passionate about what you're teaching makes it so much more fulfilling for both student and teacher, and c) people are more willing to learn when they see a reason or applicability of learning whatever it may be: I realized that I needed to change my mindset on teaching to grow into these new philosophies.

For years, I have been working on shedding the "bossy" part of my teaching persona and trying to cultivate a more nurturing and understanding part instead. While I am young and new to teaching in general, I have already learned that you have to be ready and willing to put up with a lot of struggle, miscommunication, and difficulty before you can start seeing results. These are just normal "growing pains" of learning to teach, I'm sure, and even for me, a young woman with lots of energy, it can be tiring. Not to mention, half of it is in another language I'm continuing to learn each day. But it's so incredible to be taking advantage of this opportunity and life experience at such a young age, younger than normal for many people who follow a career path such as this.

This is just my first post in a series that I will share about teaching, guiding, working in education, and so much more as I continue on this journey. I am so thankful for every teacher, staff member, student, and friend I interact with in general at my work who has helped shape these newfound philosophies of teaching. As my past French teacher told me (a woman whom I look up to immensely), "my teachings are some of me, but many ideas and activities are borrowed from my past teachers and colleagues as well". This just proves to me that it really does take a village to create education that is applicable to everyone who wants to learn and is ready to open their minds to new opportunities and experiences.

Thank you for being a part of my experience in teaching! By reading and interacting with these posts, you are playing a big part in me wanting to sit down and evaluate the lessons I've learned (see? full circle!) so that I can share them with you and the rest of the world. I hope you enjoyed this post, and I hope you continue to follow my adventures as I tackle the difficulties and beauty of education systems across the world.



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