John Lustig is an adjunct professor at Kaplan University's School of Education. He holds a bachelor's degree in fine arts from the University of Denver, a master's in fine arts from Southern Illinois University, and a doctorate in educational leadership and curriculum design.
What motivated you to become a teacher?
It's funny how my career came about because I was one of those students that teachers did not want in their classroom. Sometimes I would arrive to class and a referral would be waiting for me already. It was very discouraging as a student going through school like that because I really did want to learn. It wasn't until my freshmen year when the art and music teacher pulled me aside in study hall and said, "John, your test scores are high. Your IQ is high. Why are you here in study hall? You need to live up to your potential and I want you to start taking music and art classes, and believing in your ability." It was after that one encounter that I started really working hard in school. I ended up graduating from high school, which I hadn't intended to do, and went on to get my bachelor's and master's degrees.
As an adult, I realized I had always been a teacher. I loved teaching people. And since then I have held many positions: elementary school art teacher, technology teacher for middle school students, a dean and a college professor.
What have you learned about yourself since you started teaching?
I have learned good communication more than anything else. In fact, one of the things I do with my students is provide them with my cell phone number. In order to be successful, I believe students should be able to get an answer to their question in a timely manner. My students appreciate the fact they can get answers quickly and get back to their learning. I think that's probably the most important thing I've learned-communication is key in the educational process.
What do you find most rewarding as a teacher?
I think the most rewarding aspect is when I take at-risk students, those students who are on the cusp of failing, and turn them around and see the light bulb go on in their head. I find those moments to be the most rewarding, when I see those students who struggle at the very beginning and begin to improve when you're working with them diligently to become successful. In the first week of class, you can quickly pick up on if someone might need that extra help. I constantly am reaching out to my students, if they're not in class by the third day I'm usually emailing or calling them at home to see what's happening. I do it to make sure they're going to be successful. It's with the lack of participation they're not successful and they need to participate.
What advice do you have for someone who is considering teaching as a profession?
My advice is simple: volunteer, substitute teach, and learn what the profession is about before you fully invest your time and money into it. Schools are always in need of volunteers. I think that it's important and gives you the opportunity to work with kids and see if you are interested in this profession. I wholeheartedly believe in substitute teaching. As an administrator, I can always tell which substitutes will make great teachers. As a substitute, you go into these very stressful situations and if you can be successful in that situation, I know you will be successful as a full-time teacher. I know not everyone has the time to volunteer or substitute, but I encourage it if you have the time to go out there and find out what it is like. Learn all the extra aspects of teaching that no one tells you about, like lesson plans, observations, classroom management, and so much more.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author(s) and are not attributable to Kaplan University.
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