If you do something and repeat it 30 times, you’re likely to reach a point of exhaustion. You’ll realize when you’ve had enough. That’s it, no more. Things have changed. It’s time to move on.
A few weeks ago, Cheryl Martin, a first grade teacher at Garden Ridge Elementary, showed up for another first day of school. It’s something she’s done 33 times. Amid a pandemic with some students on campus and others at home, the veteran educator could have decided to just mail it in, go through the motions, and call it a career next May. But not Martin. Teaching is in her blood. Today she has the same energy and desire to educate that she had when she showed up for her first day of school back in 1988.
So what’s Martin’s secret? What would she tell a newbie who’s just getting started?
“You’ve got to be flexible and never stop learning,” she says. “And remember to laugh a lot and find joy in the children.”
Yes, times have changed. But Martin is showing her flexibility. Her old tools of the trade – blackboards and chalk, encyclopedias and record players – have been replaced with computers, iPads and streaming audio. You’ll still find her at the front of her class teaching, only now she sees the smiling faces of her students through the screen of a laptop.
As a remote learning teacher, Martin has learned how to be creative with the curriculum. She still uses books, flash cards and Play-Doh for activities. Only now they are brought to life with her hands and a webcam.
“Students today are more sophisticated, especially with technology,” she says. “We used to have to tell them, step by step, what to click and how to do things. Now, you can put on a game or a lesson and before you say anything, they are navigating it and figuring out how to do it. They are very tech savvy.”
Her enthusiasm is matched by her students. They may be learning from the comforts of home, but she says they are engaged and eager to participate. They are quick to raise their hand, even online, to be part of a digital discussion.
“I’m having much better attendance this year than I had last March,” she says. “I think it’s because this time they have a choice. They are committed and know this is what they want to do.”
Martin has been at Garden Ridge since it opened 11 years ago. She grew up just minutes away and went to school up the road at the former Comal Elementary. For Martin, it seems that history keeps repeating itself.
“I ended up being a teacher with teachers who taught me at Comal,” she says. “Along the way, I’ve had the chance to learn with so many teachers. And it’s been great to see the kids I taught grow up and graduate.”