– What they teach us

On Wednesday afternoon, I went to capstone presentations by students graduating from Mount Ida College, where I used to teach and run the writing center. Events like these seem more a measure of educational outcomes than any standardized test or GPA could ever be. The students were poised, engaged, knowledgeable, professional, and comfortable discussing both theory and its application to experience. Wow.

I really, really went to see Sarah Elliott, who worked with me in the writing center. In her capstone poster and remarks, Sarah described her year-long practicum at the Italian Home for Children in Jamaica Plain, working 1:1 with traumatized children, one in particular.

At some point, someone in the audience asked Sarah and her peers, “What did you learn about yourself through your work with your clients?”

I loved Sarah’s answer, and I wrote it down on the spot:

What they teach you is so much more important than what you already know.

In the auditorium, I was sitting in the dark next to Alan Whitcomb, a math professor and first year program director there who’s on my A-list of good teachers. I leaned over and said to him, “That’s what I think makes a good teacher.” He agreed, and added, “And it’s harder to teach that way.”

Interesting, that. To be a learning kind of teacher may be harder than being an expert kind of teacher.

Yet, it’s such a useful and optimistic stance as a teacher and tutor, or social worker, doctor, advocate, therapist. Open to students, open to keeping one’s own work alive.

(Go, Sarah!)

One thought on “– What they teach us

  1. Jane, this is a beautiful post. I had the same feeling last week when I went to that action-research event and saw so many of my former students–all preparing to be HS teachers themselves–presenting so eloquently and authoritatively about the classroom research they’d done during their student-teaching semester.

    The end of spring semester is so chock-full of meetings and other obligations, sometimes attending these things seems like a real pain, but once you’re there–and learning from your students!–it is, inevitably, the best way you could ever be spending your time.

    Kudos to you and to Sarah!

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