Inspirational Educator – Brian Wyzlic – There is an Overwhelming Number of Educators Doing Amazing Amounts of Good for Their Students

How long have you been teaching?

I just finished up my 10th year of teaching.

Why did you choose to teach as a career?

When I was in high school and was thinking of career paths, I noticed some of my teachers absolutely loved their jobs. I had never thought of teaching as a possible career path before – teachers were just those people who were a necessary part of my school day. But when I saw the joy that could be found in that profession, I really began to consider it.

Then when I was in college and starting working with kids and doing some teaching of my own, I fell in love with the idea of doing this for my life’s work. And I haven’t looked back even once.

Many people question if our current education system is working. What do you think?

I think anything worth doing well is worth questioning, so I’m sure there are those who question if what we have is working, and I’m glad for them. That’s how improvements are made.

But what I have seen is that there is an overwhelming number of people in education – administrators, teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians – who are doing an amazing amount of good with the students in their care. There are things we need to improve on, but there’s also a whole heck of a lot of good going on right now that needs to stay. Education is about the people. For every one person who might need replacing, there are probably 500 people doing phenomenal work.

What would you like to see being taught in our classrooms?

That depends on the students being taught. Every student has different needs. My hope is that by the time our students reach high school, they know that every human life has value and dignity, and we should find ways to treat each other with respect. Not that the more academic things aren’t important, but I’d prefer a world of book-smart people who respect everyone around them than any other world.

If you have been teaching for over ten years, describe the changes you’ve seen in students and the teaching profession?

I’ve moved around a lot, and I’ve found that each school is different. What I’ve noticed, though, if I can draw a large story arc, is that students are the same as they’ve always been, and teachers are doing their best, just like they did when I started. What has changed is the stress level in the schools. Administrators are stressed. Teachers are stressed. Students are stressed. Standardized tests get emphasized more and more each year, and the results are not healthy for our students or our teachers.

Share your proudest teacher moment.

A student checked out a book from my classroom library, and I had told her that I couldn’t wait to hear what she had to say about it – it was also a recent favorite of mine. The next day, we talked about it, and it was clear that we each found different things that we enjoyed from the book, and were glad to talk with someone who also loved the book, but for different reasons.

Months went by, and this student told me one day that I had saved her life. I asked her what she meant, as I had no idea. As it turns out, she was planning on killing herself the night she had borrowed that book. She had a plan and was set on that being the day. But that book, and me taking the interest in her reading it and wanting to talk about it, gave her the one thing she needed to live one more day.

My part in that may have been small (at least to me), but it clearly meant something to her. I know this is what teachers do all the time. They provide the light in the darkness that some students need.

What is the most important message about teaching that you would like People to know?

Teaching is both easy and hard. It’s easy for me to go into a classroom of 30 teenagers and help them learn something about the subject I’m teaching, something about each other, and something about themselves. But it was hard to get to that point. It took 8 years of post-secondary education. It took 10 years of teaching experience. It took a lot of failures. And I’m still failing, but I’m also still getting better.

 How can parents and Educators work together to better to ensure children are successful?

The key here is that they can work together to ensure children are successful. I’ve heard of some teachers who talk negatively of parents, and I’ve seen parents talk negatively of teachers. In those situations, the students always lose. When we realize there are things teachers can do, things parents can do, and things we both can do, the students almost always win.

What is the most important educational gift parents can provide for their children to help them be successful learners?

Have books in every room of your house, and read to your kids every day. Until they move out. Even if they’re 30. Also, keep a critical eye to the world, and share your thinking with your children. As adults, we don’t always have all the answers, but we can be pretty good at finding them. Share that with your kids, and have them help find the answers to their questions and your questions

 Who is most Inspirational Teacher you’ve had? Why?

This is not a teacher whose classes I have taken, but a colleague of mine the past three years. Andrea Lazar is an art teacher who inspires everyone around her daily. The key to her instruction is that she doesn’t say no to any student ideas. She also doesn’t give them their own ideas. She provides the appropriate framework for the level of skill they are at and helps them generate their own, original work. Her students leave her classroom not just at a high skill level, but they leave thinking like artists.

This has inspired me in my own teaching. How can my English students leave my room not just with a larger skill set, but thinking like writers? Thinking like readers? How can my math students leave my room thinking like mathematicians? Mrs. Lazar has really inspired me in that way.

How many hours a week do you spend completing all of your duties related to your job. Are there any extra duties that people may find surprising or not consider that you have to complete?

It’s about 50 hours a week, on average, and that’s been consistent for me throughout my career. Actually, it was probably closer to 60 when I was just starting out. I think every profession has things in it that most don’t realize unless they’re really looking at it, so I don’t want to make this a “teachers have to do so much!” answer. What I will say is that teaching involves a LOT of emotional labor. Decision-making is key, especially on-the-spot decision making. Example: a kid just left their seat and walked out of the room despite you asking them to return to their spot: what do you do? You have 1 second to decide, and your decision might make the difference on if they trust you as a teacher for the next week, which will directly impact how well they learn, which will impact their test scores, which, by the way, is 50% of your evaluation and impacts any raise you may get, which means your children might be able to visit their grandparents over the summer or not. Yes, that’s clearly dramatized, but that’s the pressure at times. By the time I get home, I am drained from this. The actual things asked of teachers may or may not be surprising, but the drain from decision-making is intense.

 What do you think is a fair salary for teachers? Keep in mind the argument that celebrities make millions and teachers are always struggling?

That is a really tough question. Teaching is in the top 2 professions in the US, in terms of a number of teachers (nursing is always up there as well). Can our economy afford to give every teacher a six-figure salary? Not likely. What I have seen, though, is teachers whose jobs required a master’s degree receiving government assistance because they made under the poverty line for a family of 4. That is not okay. It’s gotta be better than that, but by and large, it is.

What I will say is that although some who would be good teachers might be enticed to the profession for a higher salary, a great teacher would likely be a teacher no matter what, so long as they could afford their basic living expenses.

Have you ever paid for supplies for your classroom?

I could not be an effective teacher without doing so.

 If you had a wish list of needs for your classroom what would the top three things be?

Students who receive enough:

  • sleep
  • food
  • love

Please provide your email address if you would like people to contact you to possibly help your classroom?

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