When I was in college, I had a professor tell me that I was made to be a science teacher. At the time, I was an English major and science was the furthest thing from my mind. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that she was right. It was my Biology class that I was excited to go to each week and my English classes I dreaded.
Still, she had said “teacher”, and I wasn’t so sure about that. I had teachers through my K-12 education who had made me want to be a teacher and I had teachers during that same time that made me want to have nothing to do with education. I was skeptical.
During my sophomore year, I got a paid gig doing supplemental instruction for Biology students. This wasn’t tutoring, per se, it involved planning on my part. I had to attend various Bio lectures, then create a supplemental lesson plan designed to revisit the content from lecture in more visual or hands-on ways. My students were usually either athletes who were being forced to attend by their coaches or non-traditional students who really didn’t want to have to pay for the class more than once.
I found that I loved those classes. I loved sitting in the lectures, I loved planning, I loved getting to know my students, and I loved differentiating for them (before I had ever heard that word in reference to education).
I changed my major to Science Education, then Biology itself, and happily continued pursuit of a degree. During my senior year, I found myself restless and anxious to finish, anxious to have my own students. At the time, Yahoo had a feature that allowed users to create chat rooms and I began to create one called “Biology tutoring”. I would get students from all over the word and of all ages. A few continued to chat with me throughout their Biology experience (and two of them still contact me from time to time, all grown up). I found these little snippets of “teaching” to be something like sustenance.
Fast forward through my high school science teacher career to where I am today, an instructional technology specialist. This means I don’t have a classroom – or students. I take on teaching gigs for online classes, which helps to sate my appetite for teaching young people. However, I have discovered one way that also satisfies that need without any effort on my part – a YouTube video.
Yes, a YouTube video. Not just any video, but one that I uploaded three years ago. This thing is embarrassingly simple and goofy-looking. I created it quickly to help some of my online Chemistry students learn an alternative to dimensional analysis. I posted it to YouTube for them. I never thought that three years later, I would be approaching 20,000 views.
The part about the video that satisfies me are the comments. They ebb and flow. Sometimes I will get a new comment each week. Other times, I might have to wait a month, but those comments always give me that warm fuzzy feeling all over again. Sometimes they just tell me thanks, sometimes they ask me questions (which I try to always respond to), and sometimes they share the video with their friends or teachers.
I have the heart of a teacher. I might not be in a classroom. There might not be any students who even know my name, but I have made a difference to, surprisingly, mostly college students who are struggling through Chemistry and find my video.
When we are struggling with whatever stresses are coming our way – and as educators, this is an ongoing flow – we must always remember that we are making a difference – because we are teachers.