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Distinguished Teacher Michael Towne

What advice would you give to people considering a career in teaching?

Teaching is one of the most rewarding careers I have had. Simultaneously, it is one of the most demanding. The more experience you can get outside of education, the better. Having a wide perspective based on a variety of experience helps put things in perspective for students. Becoming a teacher means accepting the responsibility for students' learning. Taking responsibility to me means not blaming students for their academic failure, but instead providing the support, motivation and guidance to make sure every student succeeds. Embracing fully a growth mindset with all students means recognizing what students need (words of encouragement, extra assistance, structured support, stern observation) and then providing it. If every student can succeed, then it is our responsibility to assure they do. If this sounds exciting and challenging to you, then you are a potential teacher. My advice is, be aware of the awesome responsibility and be prepared to accept nothing but success with students. Inevitably, some students will fall short of expectations. This is when you are needed most. Teachers earn their pay when students fail, but we turn it around.

What's the best thing about teaching?

Students and the relationships I form with families are the best things about teaching. No other relationship is quite like those formed in the classroom. Students look to us for inspiration, compassion, wisdom, and humor. Providing these things consistently is more rewarding than almost anything else I have done. In my classroom, I am the architect of the learning environment. This is a truly liberating and frightening burden. On the one hand, student success brought about by my classroom structures and expectations seem like magic at times. On the other hand, I am constantly challenged to improve learning. This is why next year always holds the potential to be my best year in the classroom. This cycle of renewal and improvement is also the best thing about teaching.