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Love, Respect, and Goofiness

Thursday, November 03, 2016 by Maria Rodriguez - ACE 20, Chicago

Love Respect Goofiness Maria Rodriguez ACE Teaching Fellows

For me, the feelings I get from teaching are probably closely related to that same feeling that a preschooler gets when they get to school and see that they are going to get to play with a tub full of dried pasta noodles: excitement and exhilaration. Although I am often faced with struggles and challenges, ACE has showed me how the amount of purpose and growth outweighs all else. As a result, this new extraordinary adventure of teaching has helped me recognize my inner calling, my gift to share, and my fundamental philosophy which will guide my life forever: teach with love, teach with respect, and teach with goofiness.

20 chicago rodriguezNow this philosophy may seem trivial and simple at first, but as I have been blessed to be a teacher for four years now, I can guarantee you that this philosophy took time to develop and is not always easy.

The first part of my philosophy, LOVE, was almost instinctual. If there is one thing I have learned, it is that all children, regardless of their faith, economic standing, or gender, just want to be loved. They want to be recognized as the wonderful individuals they are and valued for the gifts God has given them. That is why in my classrooms throughout the years, I have made it a point to let my students know just how much they are loved not just by God, but by me as well. From incorporating their morning meeting shares into word problems, to letting them express their fears, to teaching them the beauty and restorative power of prayer, I make a conscious constant effort to remind my students that no matter what mistakes they make, the power of love and the choice to love yourself and others can lead to compassion and communication.

If there is one thing I have learned, it is that all children, regardless of their faith, economic standing, or gender, just want to be loved.

My philosophy on how to teach with RESPECT has strengthened over time as I have interacted with other teachers and professionals. As with love, each student deserves respect and needs the support and encouragement of their teachers. In my classrooms, I have worked hard to build a sense of community filled with accountability, teamwork, and encouragement. I give my students opportunities to talk as equals and make sure each student recognizes that their emotions are valid. I work my hardest to allow all of my students and their various abilities to present their knowledge and strengths.  Together, we can create a community that recognizes that we all have something unique to bring to the learning table. When I respect and support my students, they offer me that same respect and support.

Finally, I teach with GOOFINESS. I spent a lot of my undergraduate years at Notre Dame trying to “fit in” and be like everyone else and it wasn’t until ACE and interacting with my enthusiastic and unique students that I began to embrace and identify my goofy quirky self as a unique gift from God. It is a gift that allows me to turn a science lesson into an interactive dance party. It is a gift that helps me relate to the singers in my class as we take the vocabulary words from our math unit on even and odd numbers and turn them into a mathematical musical. When I embrace my goofiness, I am able to create opportunities for the growing love and respect in my class to build the classroom into a safe space for all my students. It is the key to keeping me grounded because I can truly be myself with my students.

Teach with love, teach with respect, and teach with goofiness: these three foundational ideas have made every day of teaching an adventure and allowed me to create classrooms that truly showcase how beloved and amazing my students are!