Middle school teachers often learn much from students

Amber Cowden, Staff

Whenever a student asks help from teachers, the teachers do their best to answer the student’s question. When both sides are struggling, they work together to figure out the answer.  Surprisingly, teachers often learn as much as the students do.

Kris Markl, a Spanish teacher, is one of the many examples of how teachers learn from their students. He became a teacher because he wanted to be a role model and a positive influence for students in the same way that some of his teachers were for him.

When he was a new teacher, he had a pretty rough first year.

“I tried to be very laid back and fun and it came back to bite me,” he said. “In fact, it took a few years for me to really find the right strategies to get my class and my instruction on the right path.”

Luke Douthat currently serves as an Associate Principal, but he has also taught Biology at Dobyns-Bennett High School. He, too, has learned a lot from his students.

Douthat had always been around the education profession, so it wasn’t that surprising that he became a teacher, too.

“My mom is a retired teacher,” he said. “I have also always had a passion for learning and am continuously looking for ways to expand my understanding of things. I think this passion, in addition to having a desire to help and serve others, is ultimately what led me to pursue a career in education.”

In his first year of teaching, he also had a difficult time. He had been working for a non-profit organization the summer that he graduated and was not hired into his first teaching position until four days before the school year started.

“I felt like everything happened so quickly from the time I accepted the job until the moment students arrived just a couple of days later,” he said.

During his first year of teaching, Douthat felt that he should  probably focus primarily on procedures, classroom management, and overall preparedness. He quickly realized that being prepared will only get the teacher so far. Ultimately, his success as an educator depended greatly on being a strong communicator and building strong relationships with the students.

Working with students helps many teachers become more aware of how many students differ.

Markl became more cognizant of where people come from and just how different human beings can be based on a large swath of factors. He has become simultaneously more structured and sympathetic towards his students.

“I had a student who was not very excited about taking my class,” he said. “They were quite vocal about their preference to study another foreign language. After three years in my class, they went on to score in the top 8% on a national Spanish exam.”

His students helped open his heart to a wide variety of individuals.

“I have had very impactful interactions and relationships with students who are incredibly different from me,” he said.

Douthat agreed.

“The opportunity to work with students on a daily basis is definitely a powerful experience,” he said. “I strongly believe that over the last eight years, I have become much more aware of the fact that no two students are the same. As a result, it is vital that educators work diligently to provide a learning experience that addresses the unique needs of all students.”

Since he became an educator, Douthat has also learned the importance of communication. Ge thinks it is vital that educators are active listeners.

“At any moment during the day, it can be easy to be pulled in many different directions,” he said. “However; it is incredibly important that educators prioritize their students at all times. Simply listening to your students and being a person of trust provides an opportunity to learn so much from your students.”

Douthat, too, has experienced many memorable events in his teaching career. They were typically centered around the students’ successful stories.

“Being a former high school teacher, graduation is always a very special day,” he said. “Having the opportunity to talk to your former students, learn about their future plans, and watching their hard work culminate by obtaining their diploma always provides a great opportunity for reflection. As an educator, you always hope that the time you spend with each student has a positive impact on their lives and will help them accomplish their future goals.”

Many teachers have said that they learn from their students almost as much as they teach, Douthat included.

“Students are incredibly smart and provide a variety of life experiences and interests that often differ from the teacher,” he said. “As a result, students have an opportunity to often serve as the teacher and share their experiences and knowledge to others. Students should always celebrate their knowledge and uniqueness and seek ways to share it with others.”

Markl agrees.

“I would certainly agree with this statement and add that the content area of the teacher is solely what gets you in the door; all parties involved learn a lot more than just history, language, science or math,” he said.