Talent. We’re obsessed with it. We watch television shows like America’s Got Talent, The X Factor, and The Voice. American Idol has been a huge hit for years, and it’s companion shows have loyal followers around the globe, I’m sure. I’m pretty sure we’re so fixated on talent because so many of us feel like we don’t have any. I beg to differ. I think we all have talent, but some of us simply haven’t discovered ours yet.
I have a few talents that I have been developing over time. I have a knack for combining colors and patterns, which helps me create dynamic quilts and eye pleasing scrapbook layouts. I bake fabulous brownies (with or without nuts), and I’m a good driver. I generally have a good eye for editing (I’ll be mortified if I miss something here), and I usually write fairly well. All of these things are great, but they aren’t my real talent.
The true talent I own is that of a natural born teacher. Yes, it is my profession, and I have been trained in the field. I hold an advanced degree (whippty-doo for me) and I have read numerous articles, texts, and manuals over the years. I have received trainings, attended seminars, and taken classes. I spend hours online researching methods and teaching ideas to help my students understand and practice new concepts, and to help inspire them to love learning. There isn’t a teacher I know who can’t say the same. Some people, however, are naturally born teachers. I fall into this category.
These NBT’s (Natural Born Teachers-we love using letters for things) began their careers with a group of stuffed animals and dolls. Younger siblings and neighbor kids were fair game, too, as they cut their teeth. The typical NBT spends several years in the babysitting trenches, followed by experiences at camps/pools/community centers/daycares/etc. They are the ones who check out volumes of dinosaur, ballet, or Harry Potter books from the library when their young niece or nephew is due to visit. They may fight it, but eventually they realize they were made to teach. They have been doing it all along.
I’m one of those. I can turn almost anything into a lesson, and most of the time I can do it in a way that makes sense to students, whether they are seven-year-olds learning to tell time. or seventy-seven year olds learning a new quilting technique. At school I often extend lessons in ways that I hadn’t anticipated. Sometimes it’s a matter of asking the right question at the right time. Other times. it’s allowing students to struggle with a new concept in order to develop their understanding and problem solving skills. I use a lot of story telling and analogies as I teach. I find that making connections to the familiar is very helpful for anyone with is learning something new.
I may not be able to carry a tune, dance a foxtrot, or play anything other than the right hard part of The Entertainer on the piano, but I’ve got talent. The kind of talent I have helps to improve lives. You can keep your trophies and monetary awards (or still give them to me, that’s okay too). I can rest at night knowing that my fourth graders can explain relationships between different mathematical operations, and they can find evidence of a character’s motivation in a play. They can discuss the similarities and differences of wind and water erosion and they can determine whether certain resources are renewable or nonrenewable. They can walk into one of their multitude of tests with their heads held high, and show their stuff. I feel good taking at least a little credit for that, after all, I’m their teacher.