What teaching taught me

My mom used to be a teacher – she has worked in a kindergarten for military families for more than 30 years and eventually became a principal there. All of my mother’s friends have been teachers. Even my mother-in-law used to be a teacher and a principal of a kindergarten (what a coincidence!).

I grew up in an environment living and discussing education all the time. I knew how much it was taking to be a teacher of small children or – as it is written in the article I want to recommend today – to know “that the future’s sitting just feet from the chalkboard, in its most formative years”.

So many emotions, so much stress every day. I still remember what I told my mom one day – “I may know little, but I certainly know that I will never become a teacher, no way”.

And yet, here I am, expanding my educator/university teacher portfolio. A portfolio that is so stressful, but so rewarding at the same time! I am not teaching small children (well, there is one I love to teach and show the world to – my 4-year-old son Tadeusz), but throughout this semester I saw sparks of interest and excitement about learning in the eyes of so many of my students.

What I know now is that being a teacher means working on yourself 24/7. Improving your skills in educating – and in understanding young people. My students were coming from a dozen of countries and three continents.

I had to do my best to understand and respect their backgrounds, things they have been through (some were coming, for instance, for Eastern Ukraine), things they wanted to achieve in their lives – and sometimes make them think about and analyze their goals and aspirations for the very first time (like when I showed them a presentation on the future of labour markets in the times of technological revolution).

I hope my students know how much they gave me. They taught me that it is OK not to know everything, as long as you try to find out the answer. They taught me that it is possible to be strict and understanding at the same time. They surely made me believe that the things I wanted to tell them mattered and made them better understand the contemporary world.

And last but not least, they taught me more about public speaking and presentations than any training I took throughout my professional career. The things I wanted to say to them were not as much important as the things that my students needed and wanted to hear from me. Easier said than done. The first issue I had to think about whilst preparing my lectures and seminars was to come up with ideas that might really have a meaning and worth for my students. Their educational needs were the most important – not my teaching needs.

These are my biggest take-aways, up to now, from my teaching experience. I am very much looking forward to all the things that may come to me in my future educating career.

For now, I highly and truly recommend this article on TED that shows why the work of teachers matters so much – and why being kind to teachers is important, too 🙂

Especially dedicated to all the teachers out there, with a clear, often underestimated mission and passion.

This article was first published on Sept 20th 2017 on my LinkedIn profile.

Seeking more content focused on teaching? Have a look at this article: Teaching public diplomacy: inside the classroom.

Interested in education? Have a look at these pieces:

Finnish education: a pillar of the nation brand

Top6 INSEAD Knowledge articles on education


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