Be The Teacher Who…

5 min


Don’t we teachers wish that we could bottle up that beginning of the year feeling? The one where possibilities are endless, there is hope in every student and the stresses of the day haven’t taken their toll on us. What if we didn’t lose it? What if we bottled up that magical feeling and kept it to sprinkle in our rooms each and every day?

Through my time in education, I have been beyond privileged to work alongside some of the most amazing teachers and consultants in the education world. I have walked away with life lessons learned, instructional techniques and a greater appreciation for the impact we can have on the children we come across in our lives. Here are just a few of the gems that I have learned from some of the greats.

Be the teacher who builds relationships

As I go through life, I notice more and more how important relationships are. Relationships of all kinds-the ones with our students are no exception to these qualities. Think about your own life. Who are the people you are drawn to?

Are they the kind of people who you trust?

Do you have someone who listens to you and always makes you feel like you are the only person who exists at that moment?

Who are the people that you can always depend on?

Now ask yourself what can we do as teachers to build a bond that will take you and your students throughout the entire year?

Do you know your students?

Do you know their story?

Do you honor it?

What if we asked about the student’s evening before we accused them of forgetting to do their homework?

What if we knew their families?

What if we took the time to understand their family dynamics and took that into consideration when talking with, disciplining, teaching and assigning?

What can we do as teachers to make our students feel like another safe spot for them to land and not another authority figure to fear?

The most powerful relationships with students are started off with listening. A one on one conversation where you really hear what the kid has to say and in turn, you respond. Authentically. Connection is the key. Even the worst days can end with a smile and a “let’s start fresh tomorrow.” Be open to your students. Let them in. They want to hear about your pets and stories about your family. They want to hear about your elementary experiences. They want to know YOU, deep in your heart you. Not just as a teacher but as a person. They want to know that you forget your lunch. They need to see that you make mistakes. They want you to know them, not just as a student but as a person…even when they don’t act like it.

Be the teacher who builds a community

One of my most inspiring mentors built her every classroom on community. There was trust. There was safety. There was respect. There was incredible growth. Was she a fabulous educator? Absolutely. But her kids knew that in that classroom, it was THEIR space, not just hers. It was THEIR procedures that drove their schedule, not the teacher’s. They respected one another, they leaned on one another and they trusted that they were in a safe spot. Why? She fostered the environment. She gave them the opportunity to lean on one other, not just her. She taught them explicitly how to speak to one another. How to respond to one another. She taught them that they all had something to contribute and they were going to learn more from each other than they were from her teaching at the front of the room. Her expectations were high for her students and they were high for her. If she expected them to listen. She took the time to listen, REALLY LISTEN, to what her students had to say. The students in her room, year after year, knew they were in this together. Together they could accomplish anything.

Be the teacher who stands on truth, not opinions

My first full year of teaching, I was placed with a true master teacher on my second-grade team. I worshipped her. I hung on every single word she spoke. She lived and breathed teaching. She had a love not only for the art of teaching but the students in her class. She especially loved the ornery ones. They loved her right back. She was not interested in opinions from others of her incoming class. She was going to get to know them and come to understand them all. That love bled out into the families she was able to be a part of. Even when she had to call home every night on a certain student, the family listened to her. I wanted to know what magic words she used when she called these parents over and over again about their challenging child. Her answer was, “You just tell the truth, kiddo.” She always told me that you can’t argue with the truth. All you have to do is be honest about the child’s behavior. Leave your opinion about their behavior out of it. If you genuinely try to work towards an improvement plan or goal with the parents, more often times than not, they were going to work with you. Above all, the conversation happened on the phone or in person. Email was not an option. It can be easier but it can also be misinterpreted. The tone of an email can be inferred to be something it is not. Her students and her parents knew that she believed in the possibilities for them.

Be the teacher who goes in with curiosity, not an agenda

An inspiring independent consultant in education uses that phrase a lot. What if we were curious about little Johnny’s behavior instead of going into the conversation with an agenda about how he is going to be punished? What if we were curious about why a student does not love reading, writing or math? What if at a conference, we were curious about what they were reading or writing? What if that led to authentic teaching instead of a way to get a grade? What if we were curious about why Jane doesn’t ever finish her homework instead of following prescriptive behavioral protocols just because “it’s what we’ve always done”? What if we were curious about a child acting out? I read a quote once that said the kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving ways. There is a reason each child behaves the way they do. Their stories make them who they are. Some of them have gone through far more than we will ever in their short lives. We owe them more than a punitive response day after day.

Be the teacher who teaches the learner, not the lesson

An administrator who made a huge impact on who I am as an educator always said, “You can plant all the seeds in the garden at the same time. It doesn’t mean they are all going to come up at the same rate.” On top of that, every child is a different kind of plant. Each one needing different things to make them thrive. Think about the variety of children in every class. Each child has their own unique story. It is our job to meet them where they are and honor that. Every child learns differently and we have to accommodate accordingly. Are we taking the time to teach differently? “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday, we rob them of tomorrow.” Let go of what happened last year with last year’s kids. This is a new year with new personalities and new styles of learning. That’s the beauty about education…the slate can always be wiped clean.

Be the teacher who reflects

In education books and professional development sessions around the globe, you are going to find a common theme. Be reflective. Be reflective in your teaching. What’s working? What’s not? Be reflective in your planning. Are you collaborating? Is it more than a list of things to teach? Is it what is best for you or something you bought from someone else’s classroom? Are you doing your own assignments and finding the value in them or is it just another worksheet? Be reflective in the way you handle tough situations. What worked well? When things go poorly, what can be done differently the next time? Did you use your resources around you? Did you let a problem get too big before calling in your administrator? Reflection is merely taking the time to consider the possibilities. Hall and Simeral said, “The more reflective you are, the more effective you are.”

Whatever goals you have for this year, let them be authentic, hopeful and what is best for kids. Be the teacher who…and have a wonderful year!

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