As many start the school year, I have a few pieces of wisdom to share. These are based on my personal experience as a parent, educator, and substitute. They boil down to a few things.
- Remember how you speak to students matters. Show through your actions, and especially your words, that you value and respect them.
- Be positive in your approach.
- Expect more not less. If you lower the bar, you’ll loose more than you gain. Students, in general, I believe, want to be pushed. They want to be more than they are, to learn, grow, and excel. They do not want to be less than.
- All questions are acceptable. NEVER, and yes, I used all caps for a reason; NEVER tell a student their question is stupid. Never, ever do this or, worse, tell them thy are stupid. Stupid in our house was akin to a swear word – it just wasn’t acceptable. And, it is especially not acceptable for an educator to use this word.
- Remember students have interests, abilities, and work responsibilities from outside your class. This might be from other classes, a job, extra-curricular activities, family responsibilities, etc. Don’t assume the work you give them is the most important thing they have to do. Yes, I know they have to do it but I am asking that you not to give work unless there is a reason and credit given for doing it.
- Do not be afraid to slow down and re-teach. If your entire class does poorly on assessments, maybe it’s you (the teacher) – not them (the students). Act reflectively at all times. Is there something you could do differently with the lesson to help them understand? If so, slow down and do it – in class – where all have the benefit of review.
- Do not expect that all students will come to you for extra help. And, if they don’t – avoid labelling them or assuming that they are lazy or don’t care. Perhaps they are seeking help elsewhere – peer tutors, former teachers, parents, etc. Don’t assume. Ask. Offer. And, be kind while doing it.
- Get to know your students. Invest in them. The best teachers my sons ever had did this and did it obviously. They knew their interests and hobbies outside of class. They asked about their lives. They showed they cared.
- Expect success. For if you expect anything less than this, you’ll get it.
- Enjoy being face to face if you are lucky enough to have your students back in the classroom this fall. From what I’ve read, the great majority of them want to be there – not staring at a screen from an isolated bedroom or kitchen table. Take time to show they are important to you and that you truly care.
There are a lot of “do nots” in this post. I suppose it is because we had experiences with teachers that “did” the very things mentioned in my list. Above all, I ask you to not let your students feel they are “less than” because that is the worse thing you could possibly do.
Finally, I love teachers. Many of my closest friends are teachers. I love to teach. But, most of all I love kids and forming relationships with them. Some of those relationships will last a lifetime if you do it right. And, if you don’t, you are missing out on one of the greatest joys of the profession.
Have a great school year!
Today is Slice of Life Tuesday. Thank you to TwoWritingTeachers.org for creating and hosting this weekly forum, as well as the Slice of Life Challenge each year in March.