At the urging of Shawn, I've prepared a fifth potential 250 word statement. Once again this one is also rough and plays off of some of the ideas in 'Take 2.' The statement is bracketed below to differentiate it from the rest of the post.
[Mistakes are my favorite part of teaching. I love to tell my students this principle because many of them are so afraid to make a mistake when they are solving a problem that they inhibit their intuition and other creative problem-solving ideas. Freeing students to make mistakes, but to learn from them, is a great facet of being an educator because it empowers students' thoughts and ideas by putting them on an equal footing with all other ideas presented in the class. Too often are students hamstrung by trying to regurgitate knowledge, and so through highlighting the advantages of making mistakes I try to get students to think more deeply about tasks at hand.
Additionally, examining student misunderstandings and following their unique processing skills to determine the best way to guide their future work is extremely demanding. I have to understand various elegant and some inelegant, yet still logically valid, solutions to each problem to help students approach their work in a way that is mathematically sound and in line with their thought processes. Furthermore, to guarantee long-term conceptual understanding, these next steps must be presented in a way that will be meaningful to every student. Over my three years of teaching, I have been academically challenged in ways that I never expected given my "easy" middle school curriculum, but the process of learning to think like others has been exciting and enriching and will forever affect my critical thinking by encouraging increased breadth and depth of thought.]
Word Count: 248