Seriously… Kids Really are Counting On You! Inspire them and be a teacher worth remembering.

Imagine that you are a student. It is 6am, you’ve pressed snooze 3 times, and your first thought is of a specific teacher. How does that teacher make you feel?

  1. “I am so excited to go to school! My teacher is always happy to see us, and includes us in planning our units and projects. The time goes by so fast, because we are always moving around and doing interesting things that keep us on our toes and learning in new ways. I feel safe to make mistakes and don’t stress out when we have a test since the tests are fair and allow us to talk about what we learned.” – Sounds like a Master teacher!
  1. “I wonder what today will be like? Sometimes we learn really interesting things and have some fun; we even get to talk about our thoughts and ideas. Other times it seems that we’re all in trouble and don’t know why. Usually we can tell as soon as we walk in and look toward the teacher’s desk. Unfortunately, if it’s a bad day, we are stuck working out of the book and no one’s allowed to talk. It’s not fun to guess what kind of day it will be.” – Oh, boy, that sounds like a moody teacher.
  1. “Ugh, I don’t even want to go to school. All we do is the same thing every week. Read the pages, complete the worksheets, go over the homework, take the test, and repeat for 30 weeks. Sometimes we are lucky enough to get a project, but it’s the same project this class did last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. This teacher must be as bored as their students. I guess I just have to survive the year.” – This is the meh teacher. Most of us have had at least one of these- every year of middle and high school. It’s not you, is it? 

Are you a master? Are you moody? Or, are you… (shoulder shrug goes here) Meh? Trust me, your students see you in one of those categories. Understandably, expecting a master teacher every day may seem unrealistic. We all have a few bad days, but if you are not inspired to be the kind of teacher who inspires kids to have a passion for learning, then please remind me why you are a teacher?

The best part is that you get a chance to be better, every single day! All it takes is an honest conversation with your students. What do they love about your class? What would they like to see changed? Why? How? Students expect feedback to make them better learners. Shouldn’t we expect feedback to make us better teachers?

Be brave, teachers! Kids are counting on us to inspire a passion for lifelong learning. Workbooks and textbooks don’t cover that. Be better than that. Don’t you want to be remembered as a great teacher?

My Plus 1…

When I visit teachers, talk to kids (even my own), and reflect on my own life as a teacher, I often think about the philosophy behind great teaching and learning.  Sometimes I wonder whether all teachers learned the same concepts I learned when going through teacher training – or was I just really lucky.

It all comes down to human growth and development.  When I was in university, I had a class that focused on the minds and bodies of 10-14 year-olds.  I remember my professor making us repeat- “The attention span of a child is their age plus 1.” So, my ten year-old can focus for 11 minutes before getting bored, spacing out, fidgeting, or melting down… that sounds about right.  This is why I’m a firm believer in any type of workshop model: 10-15 minute mini-lesson, 30 minutes of independent work, 10 minutes of group sharing.  This model can work in reading, writing, math, science, social studies, languages, and art.  It can also be done at most grade levels.  Oh, and kids LOVE it!

Social characteristics in tweens are also worth noting.  As much as they seem completely focused on themselves, they are actually very sensitive to the mistreatment of others.  This is a quality that teachers and parents need to nourish- for all too soon, they will become full-fledged teenagers and their mindset can, and will, change.  Adolescents also want independence… treat me like an adult!, but also direction and reinforcement… I’m just a kid!  It can be very confusing, I know, but we have to help them become the best person possible.

Then we move on to their bodies.  They are growing more in these middle years than in any other time other life (well, except for those first few, right?!).  Did you know that the cartilage in their tailbone is beginning to harden, which makes it very uncomfortable to sit on a hard chair or surface for an extended length of time (that’s why they’re so wiggly and won’t sit still)?  Yet, I am forever hearing teachers say sit down, be still, stop fidgeting.  Sitting in a plastic chair all day long would be torture for me- and I’m fully-grown, with feet that completely touch the floor.

In my perfect classroom, there would be standing tables, pillows for chairs and the floor, desks, and whiteboard space on any non-living parts (walls, tables, floor, door).  Learning would be student-centered, fun, and tied to local/global issues.  Students would have a voice in their learning, and I would support their needs, wants, and dreams.

What would your perfect classroom look like?