Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What Great Teachers Do Differently

While I was at ASCD, I had the opportunity to hear Todd Whitaker speak. Some of the thoughts that he expressed have really been rolling around in my brain lately. His advice is plain old common sense, but like one of students said, "You know, common sense isn't so common." Sometimes, we may need reminding of these things to give us some persepective....especially as the school year is winding down and we are making plans for the next year.

We have a choice of what comes into our room whether it's positive or negative. As the teacher, we set the tone. We are the filter as to what gets through to our students and impacts our days, positively or negatively. We must treat every student with respect every day for the entire school year. We all know that learners who are treated with respect will, in turn, treat others with respect. This creates a positive culture where students feel open to exploring new ideas and trying new things.

Parents send us their best kids. I laughed when he said this, but as I pondered it, I realized that it is absolutely true. Those kids are the best the parents have. It is our job to nurture, educate, and give them the best that we've got. Making excuses does not help anyone. It's a waste of energy.We know that students don't have a choice in where they live, their socioeconomic level, or their family situation. Our job is not to judge them, but work with each of them, nuturing their talents, finding their challenges, and empowering them with the ability to be successful people who can make a difference in this world.

Great teachers are intentionalists. In a great teacher's classroom nothing happens randomly. Great teachers plan and guide students into correct behaviors instead of fighting those discipline fires that will continue to pop up throughout the year. They understand that they have the ability to respond to something or not to respond, remembering what is best for each of the students within our classrooms. In a great teacher's classroom, the students don't know how to push their teacher's buttons because they've never seen their teacher's buttons. It's easy for us to pulled into the "reality show" mentality where using sarcasm, insults, and outrageous behavior is acceptable. However, it is our job to make sure students know that being a teacher is an honorable career. We are professionals who carefully and intentionally make educated decisions for ourselves and for them.

Here's the good news: what teachers do matters. The bad news: what teachers do matters EVERY day. We never know what will stick with our students, good or bad. Sometimes a flippant response to one of them can stick in their minds for the rest of their lives (some time I'll have to write about why I became a teacher). We all have those days where we are exhausted, stressed, sick, or feeling blue. However, we need to remember that everything we say and do in the classroom has an audience. What we do matters. One comment or action can really impact our students positively or negatively. We are the professionals. We need to remember it's not about's about them.

I know at this time of year, in spite of being exhausted, all of us are planning for our next group of students. I hope that these bits of wisdom help you (as they've helped me) to focus on what's most important...our students.

photo credit: mkrigsman via photo pin cc