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December 24, 2009 Why I Became a Teacher By Victoria Jasztal

    It is nearly Christmas Eve, and tonight I want to share a personal reflection with you. This December has been one of the best months I have had in my six years of teaching. There have been two experiences in my classroom this month that helped me reflect on why I entered the teaching profession.

    Third-grade teacher Beth Newingham posted in her weblog, Teaching Matters, about her students making hope chests for children who are in the hospital during the holiday season. For two years, I considered the idea, and finally this year, I decided to implement it. Last Monday, I impulsively sent out a letter requesting shoe boxes and small toys for children who are at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida. The response was overwhelming. My students also took a personal interest in the project because a former student from our school was diagnosed with leukemia in September and we wrote out cards for her around Thanksgiving. This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to see her and present the cards as well as one of the hope chests. After that, I headed to the chapel and saw several photos that absolutely broke my heart. Parents had written out very emotional letters to their children about how strong and amazing they were.


    A current student and her mother had come with me to deliver the hope chests and cards. She was extremely emotional about the entire experience. Her heart was touched when she saw the girl. It was then that I realized there is much more to teaching than academics. Of course I desire to instill strong reading habits, make my students dynamic writers, have them perform in plays about the history of our state, and provide hands-on math and science opportunities, yet teaching them about the importance of giving is something that cannot ever be overlooked.

    I signed up my class for Kids Care Clubs that evening, thinking about service projects we can do in the second half of this year. What do you think we can do to reach out to our community?

    The second opportunity I created for my students was writing out cards for their former teachers. Teaching the advanced fourth grade class also gave us the opportunity to make something for the advanced third grade teacher. This morning, we presented her with a special collage highlighting some of our greatest fourth grade memories we have made so far. It was then I realized that teachers are creators of Hallmark moments. Seeing the look on these teachers' faces and watching them hug their former students was far more important than making another craft for the holiday season.

    Here are a few more photos I want to share:




    I will be writing a few more entries before the new year approaches, yet I want to highlight some of the ideas I have for posts in the near future:

    • Bringing What is in a Textbook to Life
    • At a Crossroads: Defining Data-Driven Instruction
    • Ms. Jasztal's Essential Reading Skills Series (Comparing and Contrasting, Author's Purpose, QAR, Making Inferences and Predictions, Main Idea and Supporting Details, Questioning)
    • The Budding Sesquipedalian: Strengthening Your Students' Vocabularies 
    • Historical Fiction: Times Long Ago Come to Life Before Your Students' Eyes
    • Unlocking Scholastic's Resources
    • Incorporating Writing Manipulatives in the Upper Elementary Classroom
    • Every Lesson Must Have a Purpose: Ensuring the Goals of Every Lesson are Measurable and Observable
    • More than Current Events: Utilizing Newspapers in Education
    • Your Students are Reading Detectives: Searching Through Texts to Locate Important Information
    • Plentiful Uses for Index Cards in the Classroom

    Please tell me which topics appeal to you, and let me know where you need the most advice to be your very best for the second half of this school year.

    I hope you have a wonderful holiday. As I sit here thinking about trading my cell phone that has probably dropped 1,000 calls for the new myTouch Android phone, delightful New Hampshire maple syrup my aunt Christine sent my family this morning, making buttermilk pancakes Christmas morning (an excuse to have the syrup, of course), watching my parents opening their presents and surprising my best friend with incredible gifts this coming weekend, I smile that the first half of this school year has been very successful.



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