Welcome back, Warner students! I hope you’re all having a great start to your spring semester. This week, we spoke with former GRADE student and current Teaching and Curriculum student Lauren Connaughton and she’s given us the inside scoop on her career choice of teaching and why Warner was her ultimate grad school choice.
Q: What gets you excited about a career in teaching?
A: I can’t think of a better way to make some kind of positive impact on the future. There are many different career paths people choose out of some desire to make change but I truly believe that education digs into the roots of today’s problems.
Warner students and professors often discuss what it means to be a teacher for social justice. We talk about unequal systems that are in place and the small actions that we can take in the classroom to combat these systems. These small actions are vital and can make a world of difference in the lives of individual students. But before we as teachers, citizens, and a society can tackle these large-scale systems and their built-in flaws, we need to assess what’s really getting in the way of a solution. My opinion? Ignorance, fear, greed, etc. are the root causes. How do we fix these things? Protests are important. Debates are important. But the bottom-line is that humans are stubborn and don’t like to be wrong. No matter how hard we try, we are not going to convince every adult that we come across that institutional racism, climate change, threats to women’s rights, etc. are real and need to be addressed.
Education is the only known cure for ignorance. I am definitely guilty of getting frustrated with people who I feel are ignorant on issues that I really care about. But then I force myself to step back and think: what was this person’s school experience? Were they encouraged to think critically about every problem, piece of information, book, website, or news report that they came across? Or, were they given what to read and told it was fact? Did their teachers model for them what being a lifelong learner looks like? Or did they see education like a race—once you cross the finish line, it’s over? Were they taught to build caring, trusting communities where every person deserves a voice? Or were they taught that competition is the only way—every man for himself? Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, did they even enjoy school?
Public schools do not always do the best job of fostering tolerant, open-minded, and passionate citizens and communities. I also don’t believe that at any point in the near future, the government is going to discuss the fundamental way that we see public schools and whether or not that should change. So there are shifts occurring within teaching: from memorization to critical thinking, from competition to community building, from just trying to get over the finish line to becoming a lifelong learner. Fortunately or unfortunately, this rests on the shoulders of the individual teacher.
I know that I am going to make about ten thousand mistakes trying to embody this transition in my own teaching. But I’ve seen what this can look like in a classroom through my coursework. It looks like fun. Real, actual fun. But most importantly, what that kind of education could mean for future generations of leaders and thereby the future of our world…well, there’s quite simply nothing more exciting.
Q: Why Warner?
A: When I sit down in a class, I feel like I’m among people who share common goals and interests, yet still bring extremely unique perspectives to education. I trust my professors to model excellent teaching in their courses so that I do not only take important information away from class, but also ideas for activities in my classroom. I took my first Warner class as an undergraduate at the U of R. I remember the nervousness that came with registering. But then I got to class, and it didn’t feel like it was three hours long. Class was stimulating, interesting, and active. It’s relieving and comforting to leave class feeling like you have excellent, highly qualified teachers helping you through the extremely stressful process of trying to get a master’s degree and teacher certification at the same time.
This blogger would like to sincerely thank Lauren for her incredible insight and frank answers. It is clear that Warner creates a challenging environment to yield positive results, and I think Lauren will certainly be a lifelong learner!