my life. I had just finished my two years of military experience and was ready to find a career. I was 25 years old when I first taught, and the cooks in the cafeteria
questioned my faculty status when I tried to get in the front of the lunch line on
more than one occasion.
I was a kid! I was also a frightened kid. I wasn’t sure I would be able to teach. Discipline problems were a heavy concern for me. I wasn’t sure I would be able to handle what the kids would throw at me. However, my comfort level with the students grew rapidly. I had so much to learn, and every day the
students gave me learning experiences.
I listened to the excited students and shaped my teaching to approach the students in a way that attempted to keep them interested in what happened in the classroom. They corrected my mistakes, particularly when I misspelled
words while using the blackboard. When studying for my doctorate, I was elated
to learn that there is no correlation between intelligence and the ability to spell.
What a relief! That does not mean that I was not often an embarrassment to myself when errors became so obvious.
I requested the opportunity to visited other teachers’ classrooms when I heard students telling each other about something special that had happened in one of their classrooms. I found it so helpful to see how experienced teachers approached the process of teaching. I was not afraid to copy that which I thought
would work for me.
Over the fourteen years at Bountiful High, I believe that my understanding of teaching methods oozed every year. To partially explain that change, I believe that I was basically three different teachers. I don’t believe I was ever just a basic teach-the-book teacher. My grading philosophy changed the
first time I made out grades for students and was challenged by a student who really deserved a better grade than I had calculated for her effort. Even in the first year of teaching I found better material than the text book to teach geography. Nevertheless, I started out basically as a “do it by the book” sort of teacher.
I thoroughly enjoyed my first year of teaching, but I had no idea that teaching was such hard work. I was worn out at the end of each day. I found classroom teaching more taxing than bucking potatoes, thinning sugar beets, or pouring concrete all day long. A typical work day was seven hours at the school and another six or seven hours in preparation and grading papers. Being aware of what thirty-four or thirty-five students were doing at any given minute was exhausting.
When I started to believe I was having success as a teacher, a second personality defined who I was as a teacher. I was having so much fun teaching I became sure that what I was doing was right! The limits of the first Ray Briscoe were erased and the second Ray Briscoe became over assured that what I was doing was the best way. At the same time, I also realized that I still had much to learn. I enrolled in a Master’s program in history at the University of Utah. I applied for and received scholarships to Stanford University to study economics, and another scholarship to the University of California at Berkeley to study Far Eastern history. Upon receiving my Master’s degree, I enrolled in a Doctorate
program in Middle East Studies at the University of Utah. I later switched to
Education and graduated as a Social Studies Specialist.
The increased academic learning did not enhance my ego about my teaching, but became a humbling factor. It taught me how little I really knew. I never thought I would take another education class when I received my
Bachelor’s Degree, but found an opportunity for real growth from the graduate courses I took in the Education curriculum. I learned how to organize myself so there was little wasted time. I learned better ways to use my educational materials, of which I had an abundance. I learned how kids learn and knew that they all do not learn in the same way. I learned to bring into the classroom the
experiences the students were having at that time of their life. I learned that if you couldn’t discuss in the classroom what the kids were discussing in the hall, you really are only minimizing their learning. I learned that school was life, not preparation for life.
My best teachers were the students. When an attractive young girl comes to your room and you quickly learn that her father is abusing her, it is a learning experience! What do you do if Dad is punching out the kid you have a
hard time reaching in your classroom? When you learn that a troubled student’s
mother is a prostitute, you better determine if you can help by finding someone
who can. It is humbling to find a student who is well read and has a photographic mind. You are not smarter than the students, you only have a head start in the learning process. Some students have already formulated what they want to do in life, and others have no idea. I believe I learned that teaching
students information was only half the job. A classroom of students have a myriad number of experiences. When they are brought to the classroom, the teacher is the student. Information is useful as the building blocks that teach us to teach concepts and shape the learning process. After school is out the students will remember the teachers’ approach to learning, not the facts which were
When these experiences were applied, I believe I became a professional