What it Takes to be a Teacher

Susan at the CATESOL conference

A blog post from SOLES MEd in TESOL, Literacy, and Culture Ambassador Susan Zyphur

I’m a teacher. It’s what I do, and it’s who I am. The old joke is that “those who can’t do, teach,” but those of us who teach know that teaching requires every ounce of effort and ability that a person has, and then some. You can’t be a good teacher and not be constantly working to improve yourself and your practice. To that end, I’m also a student – a student not just of education, but also of life, of people, and of myself. More specifically, I’m a USD SOLES student, and that distinction has made all the difference in my education. As the fall semester gets into full swing, I have to admit that my third semester is proving to be much more challenging than the first two. My first year in my program was demanding on personal and emotional levels as I began to see who I was and who I could be, and then to build the skills that I needed in order to bridge the two. Now my Capstone project, once a distant and somewhat theoretical event, has become a very real and somewhat terrifying reality looming dark and heavy on the horizon. I’m so very grateful to have the support of the USD SOLES faculty and staff, not to mention my fellow students, as we all embark on this part of our journey together.

Susan at the beach

When I applied to the SOLES M.Ed. in TESOL, Literacy, and Culture in early 2018, I knew that a culminating project would be a requirement for completing a graduate degree. I was ready and willing, and I still am. But I had no idea at the time just how much I would change as a result of this program – not just as an educator, but as a person as well. It’s been an interesting journey, to say the least. I’ve learned a great deal about myself and others; some of it I’ve liked, and some of it I haven’t. And yet, even the unpleasant has been a gift, as awareness brings with it the opportunity for change. The focus on cultural sensitivity and social justice at USD has been a much needed wake-up call, and has opened my eyes to ways of improving myself and my teaching practice that I hadn’t even known existed. I’ve also discovered a passion for social change that I didn’t know I had, and it’s because the changes that I want to make start with myself.

Susan zip-lining

This passion became the driving force behind my thesis topic, which comes more clearly into focus with each passing week. I’ve noticed, however, that I can easily get sidetracked by the minutiae and lose sight of the bigger picture by focusing too much on the details. And there are so many details! One of the great things about being at SOLES, however, is that the entire school is committed to helping students keep their focus on the end goal: A more compassionate and more just world in which education is a tool for students to reach their full human potential. The SOLES team doesn’t just talk the talk, either. Time and again I’ve experienced the true caring and commitment that all of the professors and members of staff have for me and my success. It’s been both an inspiration and a call to action.

Even though I’m having to work very hard, especially this semester, and despite how much I worry about deadlines, student loans, completing my practicum hours, etc., I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve gained so much through my time at USD, and I’m a better teacher and a better person for it. I often say that the best decision I ever made was the decision to become a teacher. The second best was the decision to earn my M.Ed. from SOLES.

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