A Short Conversation With…Katie Hellerman @theteachinggame
How long have you been teaching?
About six years if you put it all together. I pretty much have taught all ages: two years high school, one year middle school, two years teaching sustainable design courses to adults, and a whole lot of junior kindergarten through high school substitute teaching in between.
Out of all of those, I think I learned the most being a substitute teacher. As a sub, you have to get really good at thinking on your toes and building trust quickly.
Has your educational philosophy changed since you began teaching?
I think that if you were to ask me this question when I first started teaching, I probably would have given you a very academic response and quoted Stephen Krashen or Howard Gardner. With time, I’ve become more pragmatic about teaching. I’ve come to really internalize that fact that not every method is going to work for every student. Sometimes you just have to throw your philosophy out the window and do what works for the individual student.
I have also come to understand how important it is to make the effort to really get to know your students. Teaching is not a perfunctory profession. You have to be fully invested to do it well.
Has Twitter played a role in your evolution as a teacher? If so, how?
Yes! It took a while for me to build a solid posse. But now I have a great group of people who are really creative, inspiring and supportive. You know how they have fantasy football teams? Well, I have my fantasy faculty team (FFT). If I ever can’t find the inspiration, materials, or support I need in my physical school, my FFT comes in handy.
What’s the best advice you have received as a teacher (or can give to a new teacher)?
“Only get uptight about issues that you will remember in ten years.” I got this advice from one of my first mentors and it has served me really well. For some reasons, a lot o teachers I know tend to get super worked up about silly things like, bulletin board backgrounds and students borrowing their staplers. Save your emotional energy for the causes that are really important to you.
My advice for new teachers, is to be extremely proactive in finding mentors, observing other teachers and communicating with all your consitutants. Don’t wait or expect anyone to be able to predict your needs or sense what you are going through. Schools are busy places. Admins and other teachers are happy to leave you alone if they don’t hear screams coming from your classroom. It’s less work for them to believe all is well. Building strong networks of support is as important as having a good lesson plan.
Katie Blogs here.