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Stephanie Raper
In the Loop Editor


Summer Ends

And, POOF, summer vacation disappeared right before our eyes. The appearance of the long, yellow school buses and increased morning and afternoon traffic is a sure sign that school has officially begun. It's time to get back to the business of education. This year, education has been a hot topic in Mississippi. From teacher pay raises and shortages to state testing, our education system and the people in it have been at the forefront of many news articles and conversations. One of the things I hear most of all when asked what I do is, "You're a teacher? No way I could do that!"

Teachers are a different breed. It takes a tremendous amount of patience and gear shifting every day to navigate a classroom. Compassion, intelligence, and multi-tasking skills also come into play.

In a normal classroom, one teacher is responsible for around 30-plus students. Some classes are larger; some are smaller, but the responsibility remains the same. That teacher faces the job of presenting each particular subject in a way that each individual student understands.

Did you know that people learn differently? Some learn by listening, some by reading, some by doing. Gone are the days when teachers simply stood in front of a class and lectured while students took notes. Teachers now are expected to make learning fun! Information often is presented as a game or hands-on activity, not just as notes on a page. In my graphic design class, I have begun to create videos demonstrating the steps to new projects to supplement the written, step-by-step instructions that I also provide. These videos replace the physical presentation I previously projected on the wall to the whole class at once. Now students can watch and listen via computer and headphones to the demo at their own pace. As students work, I float around the room and answer individual questions as they arise. It's all about individual instruction. Today, students must be allowed to learn in their own way and at their pace.

When you think about all this individual instruction, at eye-level, it may not seem too complicated. But when you consider a teacher in a room with 30 individuals who each need a different explanation for the same information, it can quite challenging. Each class requires much more preparation as teachers provide personal demonstrations, then written, verbal, and sometimes video presentations of the exact same material. Can you imagine answering the same question in 30 different ways each day? This might be an exaggeration, as all 30 kids don't always need an individual explanation, but each day, teachers really do have to come up with multiple ways to teach the exact same thing.

Please take the time to think about these teachers this school year. The responsibility of education in a nutshell rests on the shoulders of the teachers. The 180 days they spend in the classroom is just the tip of the iceberg. Teachers really do work during the summer, at night, and on weekends creating new lessons, attending professional development workshops, or working on another degree as this is the only way to increase their pay scale. They really do spend their own money on classroom supplies or lunch money for that student who came to school without any that day. Teachers take their job very seriously; the world's future depends on the education they provide your children.