In 2003, when I applied to graduate schools for teaching, I noticed some universities titled their programs differently. Some called their degrees a "Masters in Teaching" (MIT). Others, such as the University of Puget Sound, titled it a "Masters of Arts in Teaching" (MAT). Regardless of the program, you would still come out with a Masters degree to teach. The mere difference? The word "art." At the time, I did not care if it was an MIT or a MAT. I was just wanted to graduate and start my career. Years later, I am proud to have these three little letters attached to my diploma. While it is a small word, it carries great weight and strong significance.
Teaching is a practice of art marking.
It is an art.
We, teachers, are artists.
3) We make. We design. We perform.
Artist make art with their desired medium: body, paint, voice, fabric, etc. They are then put on display, or expressed, to communicate their artistic messages.
As teachers, we will do the same. Either we engage in a focused hunt of resources, or we simply make and design them to suit our teaching styles. When designing, we consider the content and it's visual appearance, "Is the text too small? Is it too crowded? Is the objective clear? How do I make it more visually inviting and less intimidating? Color or no color?" Not only are we visual artists, but we are also on stage daily as improvisational experts, or comedians. When we teach, we may animate our bodies or speak in theatrical manners to accentuate ideas or get attention. Perhaps you are an expert at muting a class of 32 high-pitched voices simply by standing tall and looking sternly forward into the crowd. No words. But, maybe, just a smile.
2) We are creative.
Hands down. Teachers are creative. On a daily basis, we are working with the human species. Humans come in all shapes, walks, cultures, attitudes, perspectives, and socio-economics. Within a classroom of 32 youth, you may have one student who freely carries around a Louis Vuitton backpack and another whose basic needs are not always met. At the same time, one student may be serious and focused, while another may be diagnosed with ADHD and is several grades behind on their skill level.
But, this is why we are special. Somehow, we have the ability to deliver our message in several different ways so that every learner can be successful. That takes creativity.
1) We are reflective.
Artists reflect. They are masters of expressing thought and opinions through visual and communicative means. They spend countless hours pondering and connecting ideas that are concrete and abstract. They go over their designs and pieces repeatedly asking themselves, "Does this represent my idea clearly? Is it too literal? Is it too abstract? Is it too cliché? What will they experience? What feeling does it give?"
Teachers always reflect upon their work, consciously or unconsciously. Plus, at the start of every school year, it is probably required by your administration to set teaching goals, one that is personal and another towards a school initiative.
The beauty about reflecting is that there is no right or wrong way. Simply, it is an act of thinking about your practice. These thoughts often can lead to a realization or an awareness about something. Perhaps a question arises. Or you feel the need to take action. Reflections can be small, "I think I tried to teach too much too soon." Reflections can be deep, "Loud sounds irritate me. When I am irritated, I am less patient and quick to judge my students. As a result, I am short with my words, meaner, and less effective. I need to find a way to reduce the noise so I can be calmer and patient."
Reflections inform our work, only making us better with time.