Andy Tompkins had some fundamental questions for newly minted teachers as they prepared for graduation in December. The first one was “Do you like kids?”
Tompkins, president and CEO of the Kansas Board of Regents and also former dean of the PSU College of Education, admitted that the question may have seemed counter intuitive for a group of students who had chosen education as their career, had just finished a semester student teaching and were set to graduate on Friday.
But, Tompkins said, the time would soon come for every new teacher when they would have to answer that very basic question. It would come, he said, when the teachers were asked to help students who were the most difficult and unlikable.
“They (the students) will know,” Tompkins said. “At the end of the day, you are going to have to decide whether you like kids.”
Tompkins, the keynote speaker at the fall Student Teacher Recognition Ceremony, also asked the students, “Is your responsibility to teach, or to help others learn?”
He shared his own personal disappointment as a teacher when he discovered that there were times when students didn’t respond to the lesson plan he had spent so much time preparing.
“I learned that it wasn’t about me,” Tompkins said. “If your interest is in their interest, most of the time (your responsibility) is in helping them learn.”
Tompkins also talked about the importance of continuing to learn about, diagnose and address issues related to student learning; the responsibilities teachers have to their colleagues and the need to sustain one’s passion for teaching over time.
He said he had no formula for the latter, but that one key element was keeping a balance in life.
“I wish for you the joy that I’ve had as a professional educator for all of my life,” Tompkins concluded.
Following his address, the 66 students recited the “Teacher’s Oath,” a tradition begun five years ago and now part of every Student Teacher Recognition Ceremony.