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Courtney Langton

Courtney is an aspiring high school teacher. Her teachables are History and English, but she's happy to teach anything that doesn't involve numbers or formulas. Her particular interest is in promoting gender equity and anti-oppression both in and outside the classroom. She writes a detailed To-Do list every morning, and enjoys nothing more than a good book and a plate of bacon on a rainy Saturday.

Jonathan Wong

Jonathan's primary interest is moral education. His teachable subjects are English and Music. He encourages critical thinking and hopes to teach his students to recognize, and strive for, what is truly important to them without forgetting to be compassionate, tolerant, and open-minded along the way. He likes making analogies and his favourite is one that compares life to jumping on a trampoline.

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ARCHIVES: June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 March 2010

RE: Young Teachers and Idealism
Thursday, July 16, 2009

Ok, I'm almost caught up on posts! Come back Sunday and Monday for more brand-new posts from me. This is what happens when you have to put things off, kids.


I imagine that Jon and I will look back on our posts, maybe even as early as this fall, and laugh at how idealistic we were about teaching. We know that as ConEd students, we do have a much better picture of what teaching in a public school is like than someone who has yet to do a practicum. We've had a few bubbles burst, we've gotten a lot of very valuable advice, and we've confirmed for ourselves that the traditional path of an Education grad is something we are both passionate about and good at.

Despite our experience, though, we're still a little wet behind the ears. Jon has taught a full courseload, but I haven't yet. Jon's taught more frequently in schools he was familiar with, but my placements were always in totally new environments. We've definitely got a lot of learning and adjusting to do in the next year, and we're taking you, the reader, with us on our road trip of growth in teaching (it was gonna be cheesy anyway, but I figured 'road trip' instead of 'journey' or 'voyage' would make us all gag a bit less. You're welcome).

Being idealistic is essentially having faith that everything is great, or at least that everything has the capacity to become great. How is this a problem in teaching? Unless you allow your idealism to remain naïveté, having faith in your students, your lessons, and yourself is exactly what you need to make a difference. It's the cynical teachers, the ones who have given up caring and prefer to phone in their classes and fail to improve their craft, who are such a disappointment to students. We all had quite a few of these teachers, I'm sure you can remember one or two very vividly.

The moment I decided to pursue teaching as a career came during a conversation with one of the worst, most apathetic teachers I have ever had. She didn't so much seem beaten down by the constant excuses and rough-housing of her students-- instead, she seemed to be the kind of person who had given up before she had even started. As I concluded a presentation for her class, she seemed enthusiastic for the first time in the three years I had known her.

"That was excellent," she said. "You should really think about becoming a teacher."

If this woman, who I strongly doubted would ever be willing to transmit information in the way I felt a teacher should, could recognize that ability in me-- well, of course I should become a teacher.

In first year, our prof had us write down the attributes of our very best teachers since kindergarten. He also asked us to write the same list for our least favourite teachers. The point of the exercise, to paraphrase Hamlet, was to decide what to be and what not to be.

I challenge you to do the same, whether you're just starting your career or you've been teaching for decades. Write about those amazing teachers, and write about the ones who made you want to scream. Then write your own list: the pros and cons of you, the teacher. Think about making some little post-its or a full inspiration board with quotes and encouragement to build on your strengths and overcome your weaknesses. That way, no matter how tired or discouraged you become, you'll have a piece of that idealism to help you keep the faith.


Jon and I will make our own lists and helpful reminders, and we'll post them here for you to enjoy and think about soon. We'd love to see what you come up with!

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