I have really been reflecting these last few years of teaching and thinking to myself what does a good teacher make? I can't say I truly know, but if I were to give three pieces for teachers to focus on it would be relationships, risk-taking, and reflection.
People always say relationships are important, especially in regards to our students. I agree! If you plan on teaching a child you need to first know and build a relationship with that child. Every year I try to start the year with fun activities, but also high expectations. I have run into teachers who worry that high expectations early on can negatively impact your relationships with the students. I disagree because high expectations say I expect more because I know you are capable of more.
Students need to know you believe in them and having high expectations helps them realize you do. It's about how you address those expectations. Being positive and encouraging when students arrive and hold those high expectations are important. When they break the rules or don't rise to expectations how do you handle it? For me, it's addressing them at that moment, but also taking time later to discuss with them their choices. Students who are yelled at and never talked to or are given a consequence, but never given any feedback will feel singled out. They start to feel detached and are not invested in the classroom. We need to make sure those students realize why. Why are they being called out? Why is what they did wrong? Often times they know, but being that person who helps them to reflect and understand is part of building those relationships. I can't tell you how many times I have said, " I know you're mad. I know you're mad at me, but I know what you are capable of and you are better than this." You have no idea how many students in your class need to hear that. I know from personal experience many of my students never are told that someone believes in them and that they think they are amazing.
Yet, relationships are not just important for your students. These relationships need to be developed in the community both in the building and outside of it. We need to build relationships with other educators and support one another as a team. We also need to support our community. We need to bring them into our classroom, have them share their experiences, and their knowledge. We also need to show them the impact they make is real and appreciated. Bringing in community members into your classroom and bringing families into our buildings brings life and support to our students. We need to find ways to work together and build these relationships over time.
Risk-taking is a hot topic these days. The world and companies are looking for more people who can collaborate, but also have design thinking skills. People who take risks, but who persevere. Individuals who are constantly willing to reflect, adapt, and test things until they work. We have to encourage the risks in our classrooms. We have to congratulate the risks and the failures. Our education system has for too long been focused on getting the right answer. Even looking back on my own education I recall freaking out if I didn't get something the first time I tried. This idea is crazy to me. The older and wiser I became I realized that rarely happens. Often times the process is long, practice is needed to grow. We need to promote the skill of perseverance over perfection in our classrooms. The reason is perseverance is realistic and a life long skill. We need to model risk-taking to our students. It begins with us! We have to be willing to try new things, refuse to be stagnant. As educators, we need to grow, develop, and learn from those around us. It is our duty to our students and ourselves to constantly take risks and grow from those risks. If anything it makes our jobs exciting and forces us/ our students to be more creative.
If you have made it this far you have already heard reflection be mentioned quite a bit. Reflection to me is the root of everything. All things come back to reflection. Students and educators alike need to reflect on their day. Reflection is important when we do anything. As an educator, I reflect on my lessons, what went well, what didn't. I even have started getting student input on the lessons. It's hard not to take it personally, but we have to remember we are growing as much as our students are. If we can't take suggestions how can we model it for students? They have to take suggestions from us daily. That builds on our relationships with the students. Giving our students opportunities to reflect is a skill that is just as important as any taught in other subjects. We need our students to take those opportunities to reflect on behavior, academics, and growth. Students recognizing what they do know can be empowering. Yet, realizing what they struggle with can be empowering as well because it gives them a focus in their learning.
When all three of these come together or when you grow in these three areas you have scored a "hat-trick" in education. You have effectively scored three goals, grown as a better educator, and grown as a better person.
What would be your hat trick? Do you agree with my three goals or do you have a different three?
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