Why You (or I) Should Teach for 5+ Years

Eneza Edtech Posts, Education in Kenya

Before starting MPrep, I knew that teachers have an amazing vision of what students want and need. Throughout the past year, this fact has become more and more evident as MPrep and the teachers using our system have grown.

At MPrep, we are lucky enough to have many teachers on our founding team, including myself. The following was a reflection of how important it is to have a teacher’s understanding of education, and why I think everyone should teach for at least 5 years. I welcome your comments or questions.

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Some claim to be good teachers in their first year of teaching (that’s a lie). Some say they’ve mastered it in their second year. (I bet your kids hug you, but you’re still wrong.) Some say 3 is all you need until you start to really get it. (Don’t think so).

It wasn’t until my 4th year of teaching — my 6th year as an educator — that I started to get good. I started to become that teacher I always wanted to be.

This is how I knew and this is why I wish I could’ve taught more:

I taught writing to 5th graders. And as anyone knows, the kids’ first year in a charter school in NYC is rough. They usually don’t like writing — hate it, in fact — despise it.

On the last day of school, the last lesson I taught (so far!), we had a simple objective: Write 10 things you know to be true. I relive that lesson over and over again. It was my last block of the day with my homeroom kids. I started with a few examples. We got deep. We discussed. We wrote silently together. I classically sprawled out on a student’s desk, writing my list out. We shared.

“My grandma is starting to forget things.”

“I’ll never get to meet my mom.”

“Ms. M. won’t be here next year.”

“I want to make my father proud.”

“Love is painful.”

“I’m only human.”

“Sometimes, I don’t know what to say.”

“My cousin is autistic; no one will ever see him the way I do.”

I suppose I led my class of 5th graders to tears, to a point where so much human energy was shared and communicated… I’ve really only felt that way a few euphoric times in my life.

Isn’t it amazing what human interaction can do? That moment convinced me that nothing can replace the humanism, the support, the love of a classroom. Teaching and the school experience, especially during adolescence, are so important and actually, quite beautiful. I am whole-heartedly convinced that absolutely nothing can replace it — no technology, no magic curriculum, no new technique. I mean, technology is great — saves time, makes things efficient, calculates things for us. But the whole point is to give us, as human beings, ridiculously social animals, more time to figure out and understand the meaning of life. Together.

Teachers, (whom I often compare to sherpas,) must get in it. Deep. And learn to create bonds with children that are impenetrable, leading students to something beyond themselves, teaching them how to connect with their peers, to share ideas, to show compassion, to empathize.

I was only just starting to get good before I took on my new role with MPrep. And as I watch so many teachers here in Kenya engage in amazing conversations or transform their classrooms into havens of learning, I can’t help but think how much criticism teachers are given for not doing things the ‘right way’ or failing to create model citizens.

The truth of the matter is that teachers need to be empowered because they are the single greatest resource to improve the educational system in any country. Technology can help teachers communicate and help students have access to education, but until we unite all stakeholders in education, especially teachers, our kids will still lag behind.

— Toni Maravigia, CEO