Nostalgia was my primary motivator in this endeavor to capture the magic in Mrs. McPhail’s 4th grade classroom at EK Powe Elementary. Observing their class brought me back to my own childhood and memories of being in 4th grade, and I wanted to rediscover that excitement and wonder I experienced when I was nine. At 21, I felt I would be able to better articulate and understand the exact feelings and events that arise in the classroom. Furthermore, as an outsider observer, I could see the dynamic between the teacher and students unfold. This time, I was more interested in the role of the teacher—how does she shape and lead the class so that this is where they want to be everyday?
There must be a special recipe by which teachers can make such a lasting impression on their students. Watching Mrs. McPhail interact with her kids was really enjoyable for me. She has a vigor and determination that is often unmatched by even her 4th graders. She provides a space for them to grow and imagine boundlessly. The curiosity of her kids drives her, and she wants to make sure that fire never ceases within them. And she knows how to form personal connections with each of her students so that they every individual feels safe and trusting with her.
Mrs. McPhail takes her responsibility seriously. The influence she has over her students is incredible and she uses every opportunity to inspire her class to dream big and never stop chasing after them. There’s no formula on how to be a great teacher; it has to come from somewhere within. That’s why it’s not a science, it’s an art.