As a teacher, I am often asked why I chose to go into this field. I could provide you a list of reasons why, but deep down the underlying motivation was the inspiration I received from my fifth grade history teacher. I have been lucky in that I have experienced a great number of wonderful teachers, but there was something about Mrs. Davids that sparked my love for history and the student-teacher relationship she modeled.
Now, you have to remember, I was in fifth grade in the mid-90s. So no fancy promethium boards or smart boards, no high-tech tablets, and no flashy PowerPoints. Basically there was no eye-catching media to speak of. The only thing we had was the old-fashioned pulldown maps (which still pictured the Soviet Union) and an old-fashioned overhead projector.
Teaching history now, I have a plethora of resources at my disposal thanks to advancements in technology, but Mrs. Davids had to make do with what she had. Every day in class she would use that trusty overhead projector to write pages of clear transparency notes with her erasable marker, and each class we were prepared to copy these notes in proper notetaking technique (which she insisted on) for the next 40 or so minutes in our history notebooks.
So just how did Mrs. Davids manage to engage and win over a classroom of fifth graders whining about notetaking? She used her love for the subject, her voice, and her relationships she built with each and every one of us.
Mrs. Davids made history come to life with the excitement in her voice. You could tell from her tone and the way she spoke about these events with such passion that she truly loved what she was teaching, which intrigued us and drew us in. She helped us make connections in our everyday lives with things that happened hundreds of years ago, which helped to reinforce these concepts into our memories. And she wasn’t afraid to make a fool of herself, which we loved! Clear as day I can still picture her running frantically around the classroom, shouting, “I claim this land for France!” as loud as she possibly could while trying to demonstrate the incorrect way early explorers would attempt to “claim” new lands.
But perhaps even more important than the sparkle she had in her voice were the relationships she built with us. She made every effort to get to know each and every of the hundred or so fifth graders she taught. In the mornings before school started she would be in the hallway asking students about their day or weekend. She would remember when a student had a special event and would follow up with them to see how it went. The bottom line is, she made every student feel appreciated and important, and for a fifth grade kid, that is huge.
I always knew that Mrs. Davids was a wonderful teacher who loved history, but the way she cared for her students is what has impacted me the most. I wanted to become a teacher because of my love for history and so that I, too, could hopefully make each and every one of my students feel accepted and appreciated the way she did.