Teaching – The Explore It! Way

Junior FrenchWhat is a teacher? The simple answer might be “someone who provides knowledge and insight in various subjects, instructs learning, is in charge of a classroom, leads from the front, writes lesson plans, and marks homework.” In actuality however, in addition to all of the above, teachers are boundary-pushers – finding new and innovative methods to apply to their teachings; they are listeners by lending an ear to students in need, leaders who also know how to be team players and they share the best of the spunk and creativity within themselves with their students.

As a teachers’ college graduate, a children’s ministry director, a camp counselor, as well as a children’s hospital volunteer, it is safe to say that I have experience working with children in various settings. These roles have had their challenges but ultimately, each experience was rewarding and a source of new insight. However, as of this past Winter, a new title has been added to this list: Explore It! Instructor.

I was drawn to Explore It! by its goal to encourage students to discover their passions and talents. I began my first term with a combination of excitement and anxiety because the setting and structure was original. Students were meant to learn and be engaged, but also to have fun and let loose at the same time. Even though I was unaware of how I was going to find and maintain that balance, I jumped in whole-heartedly. I was not sure what to expect but I knew that in the end, I would gain experience and learn something new. My solace was that I too, have a passion for working with and enriching the lives of children, which would be beneficial to Explore It! This first term was more valuable than I could have imagined.

My experience with Explore It! has helped me define the role of a teacher in a whole new way. I learned students are not the only learners. As I encouraged students to dive into unfamiliar and exciting worlds, I realized that, that Explore It! was doing the same thing for me. As my students were exploring a galaxy far, far away, or creating Oreo taco cookies, or learning about (literally) exploding pop rocks, I too, couldn’t help but “ooh” and “ahh” along with the students. I was not just an instructor; I was an explorer as well. The lessons of Explore It! allowed me to gain new or more knowledge of various subject areas. For example, there was little information that I knew in regards to the relationship between cooking and science. However, thanks to Explore It’s program of Science Stew, science was not as scary as it was in high school!

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Teachers are meant to explore and discover alongside their students; learning new things is not just for the students. The educational environment is a shared learning atmosphere where we work together to create valuable experiences for one another to learn from. This past term, I got to instruct students in a kitchen environment. Even though the kitchen is a familiar territory for myself, I had to provide students with a positive experience as well as learning opportunities. What I discovered was that when the students see my passion in what I am teaching, they in turn, become excited. The same applies for myself; as I see enthusiasm rise in students, I can’t help but get excited FOR them as well because whether they realize it or not, they are learning that they have the ability to do anything.

I believe the greatest gift that teachers can give to their students is the knowledge and belief that they can do all things―that there are no restrictions to their successes and passions. All in all, my term with Explore It! has strengthened my zeal for empowering students to be the best that they can be, which in turn, forces me to go beyond my own expectations. Explore It! showed me that intentional learning can be balanced with a dose of creativity and craziness!

So, what is a teacher? There really is no concrete definition, because the role of a teacher is… limitless.