Photo of Lauren Harness, MEd’17
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“One of the biggest misconceptions…you’re just there to teach”: Q&A with Lauren Harness, MEd ’17

By Kara Wyman, MEd April 9, 2018

In many schools, especially those in economically challenged districts, the relationships with students takes on a depth well past education. Teachers fulfill so many roles it could be discouraging, if it weren’t for the progress and the effect you can have connecting with entire families. Lauren’s MEd in Curriculum & Instruction: Early Childhood Education has helped her do more for her students in her district.

How did you get interested in education?

I grew up with my grandma, a teacher. Also, my mom worked in the schools when I was younger and would tell me stories. But I was determined not to follow their path. I wanted to make my own path. But I couldn’t get away from it because it was something I was really passionate about.

Hear why Lauren chose Concordia University-Portland in this clip from our interview.

What are you currently doing in your classroom that’s really rewarding?

We’re rolling out something called the Kindergarten Developmental Inventory, a statewide initiative trying to bring formative assessment into kindergarten classrooms. It’s a new program that I was really pushing for because now I know all of this background information on the benefits of formative assessment versus standardized assessment, especially in kindergarten.

Now our school is going be a part of that team because I was able to take that first step and be an advocate for my students. And it’s going to be, hopefully, rolled out district-wide. So I’m really excited for that partnership with them.

What specific challenge does your school or district face and what motivates you to continue?

Our school is 98% free and reduced lunch, so the kids we have in our classroom need us the most. But something really amazing about my school is that we’re in it for the kids. Everyone has the same philosophy. That we give to them as much as we can. So it’s amazing to work there. And just being able to see families we’ve had in the past say they want to stay at your school, just because of the relationships you’ve built. It makes you want to stay there and love them even more.

The thing that is the most motivating is knowing that you are making a difference and that tomorrow’s always a new day. And the most rewarding part is not only seeing, especially at the kindergarten level, the amazing growth that they have in that first year– but seeing the love they have for learning. And the relationship with them and their families is really what keeps me in education today.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about teachers today?

I think one of the biggest misconceptions might be that you’re just there to teach. Not only are you a teacher, you’re also a counselor, you’re a nurse, you’re a psychologist, you’re on 20 different teams. You’re emailing parents back and forth. You’re making sure that kids have food to eat. You’re making sure that they’re safe. There is a lot on a teacher’s plate.

If you had to sum up what it means to be a teacher in one word, what would it be?

I think the one word would be commitment. Because it really is a commitment to have it in yourself to say, even when it gets hard, I’m in it for the long-run. I’m in it for the kids. And specifically for me, staying in early childhood education is really important, as well as being able to grow in the field.

Kara Wyman has a BA in literature and a MEd from the University of California-Santa Barbara. She spent a decade working with adolescents as an English teacher, the founder and director of a drama program, a curriculum designer, and a project manager for a teen-centered nonprofit organization. She is now the Alumni and Community Manager for Concordia University-Portland.

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