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        I’ve been an educator since I was a child. When I was in third grade I learned about the anatomy of the gastrointestinal system at school. I listened intently, fixated by the amazing complexity of processes occurring that moment within my body. I ran home off the bus that day and regaled my parents with the details I had learned. I talked about the topic with them for an hour and then discussed the implications with them. I didn’t know at the time that this was teaching, but I knew that I was happy.

        I kept doing this throughout my childhood, teaching random things from school to my parents. It helped me remember my studies and incorporate my education into my more casual life. When I joined the volunteer staff at a Cincinnati Nature Center summer camp in my 12th year of life I exalted in my ability to describe the world around the campers to them in an engaging way. The counselors quickly picked up on this trait and encouraged it: I was, for the first time, learning about how to educate people.

        I realized around this time that teaching was a process of learning as well. When one taught well, they learned along with their students. A lecture should never be a just a lecture. I create a journey of sorts when teaching: a series of revelations. Learning, at its best, works in eureka moments. Through suggestion and discussion of implications with students, a teacher has a higher likelihood of giving these moments of realization to their students. This also requires the teacher to become excited and invested in both the students’ learning and the subject at hand. If a teacher does not know something they should first discuss it with their students. In the age of the smartphone, students may want to “just look it up”. You can’t let this happen at first. Discussion and engagement in the subject allow for the answer to show the synthesis of many of the ideas that students will touch on. Ask students what they know and what they believe, then show them what the rest of humanity believes. Thus, the goals of the teacher and student synchronize in trying to figure out how something works or how an event affected something. As an example, the best history teachers don’t just show their class a timeline of events, they recount the events in a story-like fashion and allow their students to consider the implications of each event as informed by previous facts. If we teach history like a timeline, all the events feel predestined and unimportant to the student. If we reveal each event, piece by piece, the painting of reality comes into focus and the student realizes the complex web of interactions present at every moment of time in the universe. This applies to science, humanities, social sciences, and art as well. Teaching must be learning for learning to be enjoyed.

        As I grew up, I returned to the summer camp to ostensibly teach each summer. Eventually I became a paid counselor and was explicitly teaching the campers. I was able to structure a day and essentially choose curriculum. The outdoors became a laboratory where every day a new incredible diversion would appear! Sometimes we’d take the campers to the creek and discover a world of macroinvertebrates, salamanders, fossils, and rushing water. I’d never know exactly what was down there, I just knew that I had to be full of hope and joy that the world was so beautiful and interesting. That joy can be felt by students. Kids pick up on emotions pretty well and if you are engaged in learning, that will draw them into the process of learning as well, even if they might be scared of the animal you’re holding or the terrain you walked through. That excitement is paramount and I always bring it because I am truly passionate about caring for everything around me. Everything is a learning experience and everything is important.

        Once I left the summer camp in that final year I felt like I was leaving teaching. I knew I was going to do research during my first summer at university, so I knew that I wouldn’t be teaching anyone for a while. The next year I became a tutor for biology and held that as a job until the end of my undergraduate career. I enjoyed teaching biology to people and being able to show them concepts that they hadn’t understood in class. I used unorthodox methods to describe these scientific phenomena: metaphors and interpretative dance both helped equally. My theatrical experience has also been a boon when it comes to teaching. I have a commanding voice that is easy to listen to (and more importantly pay attention to). I use public speaking techniques to bring my audience (the students) into the topic. I use hand gestures and move throughout a classroom to bring more attention to myself and what I am saying. I use pauses and a lack of [insert] phrases like, “ummmm” and “like”, in order to be clear and accessible for my students. I also regularly check back in with my students, asking them if they understand and asking what they think of an idea. I make consistent eye contact with all of my students, though obviously never singling one person out. These techniques allow my teaching to be transparent. I am a student of the world just as much as those who learn from me are.

        I returned to teaching more obviously in the summer of 2021. I worked as a day camp instructor at Keystone Science School and was ensconced again by a community of educators. I learned so much just from watching other people teach and I can say with certainty that my teaching ability has only increased since I was 12. While working at the science school I taught a diverse group of students at two different locations. I even taught in a one-room schoolhouse, which was honestly an unspoken life goal for myself. With my new knowledge of biology informed by a degree in it and a knowledge of science, art, history, and culture informed by my education at a liberal arts college, I taught children difficult concepts for even some college students. I once taught a seven-year old what a Bose-Einstein condensate essentially is; most adults wouldn’t recognize the name. I showed the campers how to identify wetlands, learn about myths/other cultures, and the experience of creating theatre in the same day, capped off with a song on an instrument from my cabin. I gave those kids experiences that they might seriously not have access to again for a long time. Most people don’t teach kids these things because they are scared that the kids won’t understand, or that they as an educator are out of their depth (and sometimes that’s a good call). I guess I’m just a little proud of myself, which is tempered with my remembrance of how many small failures I’ve had. Sometimes it can be a tiny thing you weren’t aware of that breaks engagement for students. For as many times as my teaching goes off without a hitch, there are always a few times (and more past times) that have or did fail. That’s the nature of getting better at something. My education in education has been a learning process; it continues to be; it will never be over. I’m happy that I have had the ability to spread the knowledge that I have acquired. I’m happy that I can share with others all the amazing things that the world has within it and beyond it. I’m glad that I can show people the wonders of human creation and the woes of human destruction. We must contend with both to truly learn, after all.

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