In Teaching, You Will Learn – Knowing Students Outside the ClassroomBy Dede Rittman
“In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.” ― Phil Collins
I have talked with former colleagues a great deal about my decision to leave. The time just seemed to be right. Many of those I spoke with have also retired from their avocations: coaching, sponsoring a club, or directing. They all had decided the time was right to leave, just as I did, but upon leaving, they felt so much more. They were humbled by the opportunity to work with students and to help to shape their lives, and they were rewarded with relationships with former students who have turned into friends and colleagues. You see, when you work with students in a capacity outside the regular classroom setting, you are permitted to see students in a whole new light.
If you are a classroom teacher reading this blog, I urge you to get involved with a school activity, sport, or club. My former coach/sponsor/director colleagues would all agree. The relationships you will form with students during extra-curricular activities are something that you just can’t get in the classroom. When I think of the relationships formed on the golf teams all those years and all the lessons everyone learned from working together, from teamwork and from encouraging and supporting each other, I know that those are life lessons that those students will carry forever. For me as a coach, it was not so much about winning; rather, it was about the player doing the best he could do with what he had, practicing good manners and etiquette, supporting team members by being a team player, and presenting himself in a positive manner to others. Many former players have told me that they never forgot those lessons.
All the years I directed the spring musical and the school talent show, sponsored various clubs and worked with Student Council, it was also a great experience to work with the students, both one-on-one and as a group. Each person involved discovered that he/she was an important part of something that was much bigger than any single individual.
When a teacher works with students outside of the classroom, I have found that a new respect emerges for the others involved, as students learn to work together and to grow and accept leadership roles within a club or group. Students learn about the amount of time and organization it takes to make activities and shows and club meetings run smoothly, as well as the importance of being responsible and reliable. Of course, you, as the teacher or sponsor, must model this behavior, and the students should appreciate your time and efforts.
I strongly recommend getting involved! You will enjoy your classroom teaching even more when you know the students outside the classroom and inside. I know that as a classroom teacher and as a coach and director and sponsor, I learned far more from my students than they ever learned from me. It was a great ride.
Do yourself a favor. Become re-energized by working with students outside the classroom. You will love it, and you will learn so much.
About the author
Dede Faltot Rittman graduated from Edinboro University, Pennsylvania, in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in secondary English and attended the University of Pittsburgh for post-graduate credits. After two years at Penn Hills, she began teaching English and Theater in the North Allegheny, PA School District, a position she held for thirty-five years. For thirty-two of those years, Dede worked with underachieving students and those with special needs. She retired in 2011.
Dede Rittman is the author of Student Teaching: The Inside Scoop From a Master Teacher, which has recently been awarded an Honorable Mention by the New England Book Festival in their “How To” books category.