Craig Shapiro has been teaching for 30 years. He is a health and fitness instructor at William Tennent High School in the Centennial School District, PA. Craig also coaches Cross Country, Wrestling, and Track at William Tennent. Craig is the host of the #teachpos on Sunday evenings at 7:30p ET, and, I have to say, Craig is one of the most positive people I know.
I was in elementary school in Philadelphia, then in 5th grade, my parents moved to a suburb of Philadelphia where I lived throughout my high school career. I went to Penn State University and then Arcadia for Grad School in Educational Leadership. When I went to Penn State, my father wanted me to go into business. I didn’t know any better. At the end of my freshman year, I will never forget this, like one of those Karma moments. I was taking Economics and we were in this large lecture hall with 300 people. I was sitting in one of the top seats with one of my friends and the teacher was not there that day. The TA (teacher assistant) was teaching and I couldn’t understand him. All I remember him say was something about supply and demand. I turned to my friend and said, “there is no way I am doing this for the rest of my life!” I came home and told my parents that I wanted to be a gym teacher.
What was it like for you as a student?
I hated high school! Boring every day and of little value. It wasn’t engaging to me. I found it ironic that something I disliked I ended up doing for a career. I think it actually helped me because I knew when I became a teacher exactly what I didn’t want to do from my experience in high school. I loved sports and hanging with friends and my girlfriend. There were three teachers who had a positive impact on me.
In 5th grade, I didn’t know anyone being new to that school. We were playing kickball in the schoolyard and I slid into 3rd base. I thought I was safe and my teacher, Mr. Betz called me out. I was so upset. I’ll never forget what he said to me. “Craig, I’m so proud of you for taking that risk. Don’t ever be afraid to do that.”
My high school Spanish teacher, Mr. Black, was also a neighbor of my relatives. He was just funny and would always tell a silly joke. He was so engaging and different from most of the other teachers who just wanted us to take notes or do worksheets. He cared about us.
I had a calculus teacher at Penn State, Mrs. Gold, who probably had the largest impact on my teaching career. I wasn’t doing that well and we had this one moment where my friend and I were sitting in the back of the room and we had a laughing fit. Mrs. Gold said, “Craig, are you okay? It’s okay that you are laughing. If you need to go outside, go ahead and take a break.”
Being in her class made me not want to disappoint her because she cared so much. Teaching 101 is not about teaching the objectives on the board, it is about making the class comfortable for the kids so they want to learn. We need to tailor our learning to kids, not have them tailored to us. We should be connecting to parents and their kids so they have the most positive experience in their lives. We need to connect with kids, encourage them to take chances, and reach out so they learn something new. Try to make this about discovery, not something they have to learn during the school day. You’ll not be able to replicate a school day. Let’s not make this more complicated than what it is. Reach kids and parents where they are and try to build a community of learners together.
My focus as a teacher is not on what a person is doing wrong, it’s what they’re doing right. When you give your students something to do, are they happy to do it or are they just compliant? I want kids to do something because they want to do it not because I asked them to do it.
Whatever we ask kids to do, it’s got to
be better for kids, not better for us.
I’ve been married for 23 years with 2 children: Alana, a freshman in college, and Cole, a junior in high school. Alana went into school planning to be a History teacher and at the end of the first semester, she decided I want my children to make a good living, get a good job, but above all other things, I want them to be happy. If you asked my kids if I ever had a bad day at work, they would say no. I’m doing something I love and also I believe I’m doing something that is making a difference for people. This is not just about me loving what I do, it’s also about helping others. Not just as educators, but as people. We all have choices. We can make the world a better place or leave it alone and do nothing or we can make it worse. In my world, I think we should make it better. If we’re not going to make it better, just don’t make it worse. By the way, we also have three dogs – Boomer, Bella, and Zoey
Your view of teaching
My view of teaching whatever the time it is in, it’s all about kids and what is going to impact them and for them to enjoy the learning experience that is happening for them. I try to tailor my teaching to what I believe kids want. Instead of me saying we’re going to focus on this assignment, I try to give them choices that will help them still learn the material but learn it in different ways. They could make a video, PowerPoint, FlipGrid, paper, poster, and give as many options to make it as accessible to them and enjoy it. The quote I say to kids is…
This is your class. Make your class special.
I say to teachers, remember there is one of you and there is a lot of them. Are you the person making the decision for all of your students when there is only one of you? I’m not saying that they should make all of the decisions for children, but shouldn’t they have a voice in what happens in their class? I’ll ask my students, “what do you think of this?” Most kids because they were trained say nothing. I tell them that if they don’t say anything to me, then you are forcing me to do it the way I think we should do it. I think to teach especially when kids are older, there has to be this idea of giving kids options to be partners in learning.
Teaching during the Pandemic
This is going to be challenging. I just went for a run with an administrator from another district and we were bouncing ideas off of each other. No district that I’m aware of has prepared for this. This pandemic is something new. We have to embrace this and realize there are going to be mishaps. Learn from them. Make change. That’s going to fall on kids, parents, and all of us. I’m going to do my best to try to make parents and kids comfortable.
Twitter chat #teachpos
I started #teachpos in November 2018. I had never been on Twitter and I became friends with a new librarian at our school. She recommended joining a Twitter chat. First, we tried it with some of the kids. It worked for some and not for others, but I loved the immediate feedback. So I decided to go online and looking at chats. I love education. It is a noble profession. I joined a chat at 7p on Sunday nights. After participating several times, the hosts recommended I host a chat right after their chat. It took me some time to figure out the hashtag but I was always talking about positivity so that’s how I came up with #teachpos. The first time flopped, but now I’m connected to all these amazing people. Because of the name #teachpos, it generally gets people who are positive about teaching to join in.
So join in the conversations at #teachpos every Sunday at 7:30p ET
I’ve been a teacher for three decades. It’s a choice that has totally shaped who I am as a person and something that I truly am grateful for each day. Besides teaching, I’ve coached about six different sports and still coach three today. A few of my passions are: exercise, writing, teaching, helping others, and trying my best to be happy each day.
- Website: https://cmsdreambig.com/
- Twitter: @Shapiro_WTHS #teachpos
- Facebook: wtcccoach
- instagram – wtcccoach