Can you tell us about yourself?
“Hi, my name is Tim Spiegel. I am a gifted Social Studies teacher at Elizabethtown Area High School in Elizabethtown, PA or about halfway between Lancaster and Harrisburg. This is my 13th year at Elizabethtown. It’s my 13th year teaching.”
Why did you start a career in education?
“I started my career in education mostly because in college I was kind of stuck in a rut with the direction I was going. I chose a major... and my dad and I had a conversation and he kind of enlightened me to the fact that I do get along with kids well. I am naturally immature, I guess. They seem to gravitate towards me, I guess, at church and other places. I am really into history. I get that from my dad. So that’s kind of what got me down this pass in my life.”
If you could have any other job what would it be and why?
I think if I weren’t a teacher, I probably would have ended up being a police officer. That is actually what I was pursuing when I got a job offer at the school I am at now. I was really within a hair of becoming a local police officer.”
How are kids different now than 30 years ago?
“How are they different now from when I was 6 years old, I think kids are far more engaged in what they are doing in school and in each other. I think electronic media has empowered kids to pay more attention, not pay less. The trick, I think, with them is getting them to pay attention to the things that you want them to. Or maybe more importantly, the difficulty is for teachers is picking out things to teach them that kids want to be engaged in.
How is teaching different now than 30 years ago?
“I wasn’t a teacher when I was 6 years old. So, it is difficult for me to say how teaching was different 30 years ago. But I feel like when I was a kid, everything was very teacher-centered in the classroom. Sit and get, even in elementary school. So, what I do now in my practice as a professional is not talk a whole lot. At least not to the whole class at once. So, a lot of my talking is with induvial students. I really do like it better and I hope they like it better right now.”
What would you tell someone who wants to become a teacher?
“If I was going to give advice to someone who was thinking of becoming a teacher, I would say they need to be receptive. You have to be willing to try new ideas. you have to listen to your students. You have to be responsive to them. Shoving things down their throats in a manor that they don’t like is not how you are going to win hearts and minds; is not how you are going to be them from Point A to Point B. You are not going to get them to grow their skills. you are not going to challenge them to deeper thinking. They are not going to want to do any of those things for you.
What is one thing you would change to help kids learn better?
“Focusing on the kids here today, I think I would make kids think about consequences before they engage in behaviors and actions. I just came out of doing a year of being a dean of students at our middle school last year. It amazed me how powerless kids appear to be with their own actions. They just do them, and they are shocked by the impact of them. Rather its at that level, administrator or back here in my classroom when kids are goofing off and not using their time wisely, they just fail to understand the academic consequence from their choices. So that’s the one thing I would want to change with kids.”