Can you tell us about yourself?
"Hey ya'll. My name is Shanna Towery. I am a 6th grade ELA teacher at Palmetto Middle School. It's a tiny little town in Williamston, SC. I've been there almost 4 years, almost 16 years total in education."
Why did you start a career in education?
"One of the reasons I became a teacher was because of some influences that I had in my life, mainly a high school English teacher who really inspired me to consider going into education just because I wanted to be like her. She was awesome at helping English just come to life. I have always loved reading and writing. I started writing my own story when I was probably 5th grade. So, it didn't take much to help me love reading and writing but the fact that she would do all these fun little things, we would do skits, we would do posters that we would make for every book that we read, we would act things out. Like we did a Canterbury Tales, like a hike, we dressed-up in the time period and then we walked down the highway, went to a little place in the woods and told stories to each other and drank mead; aka soda, in the woods. So, it was just a lot of fun and I wanted to be able to pass on that kind of help to other people to learn to love reading and writing in my own classroom."
If you could have any other job what would it be and why?
"What other job would I consider outside of education, I think that I would probably like to do something CSI, FBI. I feel, you know, as an educator you probably do a good bit of that. You have to determine when a kid is telling the truth, when they are lying, you have to get to the bottom of things that happen at school and, of course, you have data and things that you have to analyze and kind of look deeper to figure out what's going on and if things are successful. So, you know, some of the same skill sets. Just no dead bodies."
How are kids different now than 30 years ago?
"How are kids different than they were 30 years ago? So, 30 years ago, 1989, I was 9. I think I am able to answer this more from personal experience. So, I remember how kids were when I was in middle school, how my peers were, how I was, how I thought, and then I see, of course, all my students that, you know hundreds of students that I have had throughout the years and I have my own kids. I have 3 kids. One who is in 8th grader, one is a 5th grader. I think I can pretty confidently say kids haven't changed. I think that society has changed, culture has changed, access to information has changed, and that leads to different influences; a whole different ball park of influences that kids today, through YouTube, through podcasts that they can listen to, through TikTok and Instagram, and SnapChat. There's just so many way, so many avenues of social media. Kids are so adapt at technology now. It's just at their fingertips. I do think that there's a tech addiction that is a little bit of the problem but as far as kids themselves changing, in inherently: no they haven't really changed. Kids are kids. It's just that access to information that causes what we perceive a change as their influence."
How is teaching different now than 30 years ago?
Teaching, I would say has changed in some ways, in some classrooms. Some places it hasn't. I think it is at different levels it has not changed in a unified way, but there are definitely some changes out there. I am actually working on my masters right now. I am studying literacy. We've looked in some of the classes, at some of the history of teaching, how the teaching of reading and writing has developed over the years, the theories of reading and writing. So, there has been some changes but I don't know that it's a huge as we want to say it is, that we still do.. that we still read, that we still write. We still do math. We still do history. We still learn science. I think that we're more educated about strategies that we can use, reading strategies, writing strategies, teaching strategies that are more effective and we are more connected as teachers and I think there is more of a pressure to do something."
What would you tell someone who wants to become a teacher?
"So, if I were to talk to somebody who was thinking about going into education, I would say, make sure that you balance yourself. By that, I mean, balance you who are as a teacher with who you are in your personal life and try not to let those two things get too mixed up. Like, you want to make sure when you go home, you go home and you be you for a little while 'cause you have to recharge. Otherwise, you will get burnt out so fast. I find that, I get a lot of influence, a lot of inspiration, a lot of just feeling better from listening to podcasts. So, if you find a podcast that you can really relate to, one of my favorites, Truth for Teachers , I just feel like it helps me recenter myself of who I am, who I want to be as a teacher and not try to take on too much because that's where the teacher burnout comes. Like I said earlier the pressures of seeing everything and feeling like you have to be perfect because that's what you're seeing out there. You got to remember it's just like real life, like not every day is perfect. If people were more transparent about the bad with the good and how to handle those days then, I think, that there wouldn't be quite that pressure. But, you know, we're in education and we have a tendency to close our doors, isolate ourselves, and try to manage everything ourselves. We have got to make sure we are looking outward for that balance and seeking help when we need help. Finding ways that we are inspired and just overall not letting it get us down."
What is one thing you would change to help kids learn better?
"If I could change one thing to help kids learn better, that is such a tough question because there is so many things that I could say. I really feel like our entire education system needs consideration for restructuring. So, as far as how we do class, when we meet during a day, how long we meet for a school day, class size, and the amount of standardized testing that we do. That's a pretty standard answer and I don't know what the exact answer to that is. I have some ideas of what I think could work but I don't have any researched based to say that I know that they would work. I just can't help that feeling like is our current system of education really what's best developmentally for kids So, that's kind what I would think and those are my answers and thanks for listening. Bye."