Over the past weeks we have looked at various aspects of teaching and learning. I know many of the ideas presented were new to some of you. I thank you for keeping an open mind and looking at things from a different angle. Your text has information on beginning this journey, but I want to share my personal thoughts with you; my “words of wisdom” if you will.
First of all, always keep an open mind and be willing to try new things. There is always more than one side to any story; be sure to consider them all! Seek out new information, try new strategies and “boldly go where no “man” has gone before!” Some of my most enlightening moments have come from the acquisition of new knowledge, knowledge I sought out on my own.
I also mentioned being willing to change your practices. Continually reflect on what you do and question if it can be done more effectively. Be willing to try new ideas. What works for one group of students today may not work tomorrow, or even next year. Try new things and re-visitold ones. Everything can be “tweaked” or tossed out if need be, but be willing to try! Do not get stuck in the rut of doing the same things over and over. You will become bored and lose your enthusiasm for teaching. You’re in trouble if that happens! Some of our biggest failures can be springboards for some of our greatest lessons. Don’t be quick to dismiss the failed idea, or even a new idea. You may have to try something more than once before you find the way that works for you and your students.
Avoid judging your students. It’s very easy to do, but it can have a negative impact on their learning. These judgments may cause you to make decisions that are inappropriate for your students and may compromise their learning.
Along with judgments, avoid assumptions. Again, your assumptions may be wrong and lead to decisions that do not support learning for the students in your classroom. Assumptions are often based on our own experiences and no two people experience things exactly the same way.
One way to avoid judgments and assumptions is to talk with students. Take the time to engage in conversations and get to know your students, not just as students, but as people also. Knowing your students will help you form a respectful and trusting relationship. It will let students know you honestly do care about them, not just their grades. This relationship can do amazing things when it comes to student motivation. Think about those teachers you described weeks ago. Most of you spoke about the relationship you had with them and how that was a major factor in your performance and how you viewed learning. You want to be that teacher that students will tell others about one day; a day when they are long gone from your classroom.
An area I really ask you to keep an open mind on is in the area of discipline and negative behaviors in the classroom. Once again, talk with students and try to find out the cause for some of the behaviors you will see. If we can eliminate the cause, or the trigger, we can eliminate the behavior. Remember that negative behaviors can be a way to “cover up” for a lack in skills. If students do not feel they have the skills to do the work, they may act out. It is psychologically safer to deal with whatever punishment may be given for their behavior, than it is to deal with the humiliation and embarrassment that can come from not being able to do the work. These are the students we have to really reach out to! We have to find a way to help them experience success, building both confidence and skills, and we can eliminate some of those negative behaviors.
Also keep in mind that not all students, no matter how old they are, will have been taught appropriate manners and behaviors. We may be the ones who have to teach them some of the social skills that we assume (There’s that word!) they should know. Don’t make that assumption and don’t hold the student responsible for something they may not have been taught; just help them learn what is acceptable.
Another element in forming that positive relationship with students is confidentiality. Keep the confidence of your students. Do not get “caught up” in the teachers’ lounge gossip about students. I have heard countless teachers spouting off about students in their classroom. Teachers who may have the child in the future are already dreading having him/her in their classroom. How unfair to the student! You can bet that student will probably won’t get a fair “shake” and they may have to work doubly hard to have a positive impact on the teacher; if they even care to try. More than that, it’s disrespectful to your students and unprofessional. There is nothing wrong with asking a colleague for ideas when you have a challenging student. There is a difference between going in and saying “I have a student who has difficulty staying on task and is often disruptive. Does anyone have any ideas I could try to help him stay focused?” and saying “Oh, what a morning! Joe Frank is making me nuts! He won’t do his work. He’s constantly daydreaming and I can’t get him to complete his work. I look forward to the days when he isn’t here!” The first approach respectfully protects the identity of your student, as well as helps you gain some new strategies to try. The second approach is both disrespectful and unprofessional. Some of you may already have witnessed this in the teachers’ lounge and it’s sad. Please don’t ever be one of those teachers who takes their students’ identity and concerns into the lounge for all to hear.
For me, there was never another career option. I never thought of being anything other than a teacher. When I graduated from high school, it was even tougher than it is now to get a teaching position. Family and friends tried to get me to go into nursing, but there was no way I could do that! I took my chances. While my career path did not go as I expected it to, I would not change any of it! If I had not had the experiences I did, I would not be a college professor today. This is not a teaching avenue I had ever considered, but when it came my way I felt prepared and ready for a new teaching challenge. If you know that teaching is for you, don’t let anyone talk you out of it! You’ll never be sorry!
While we have a large responsibility, and much that is expected of us, take the time to enjoy your students. Take moments out to just have fun with them! Sometimes you have to scrap the lessons and just relax and enjoy each other. Your students can enrich your lives in ways you may not be able to imagine right now, and it doesn’t matter what age your students are! One downfall to the online class is that I don’t have the opportunity to have that fun with all of you. It saddens me actually, but it is one of the trade-offs that I accept. When you have the chance, step back and just have a little fun!
I wish all of you the very best! I hope you all find the position you are looking for and enjoy this profession as much as I have. While it is challenging, frustrating, infuriating and physically and mentally tasking, it is also one of the most exhilarating, rewarding, exciting, fun, challenging and fulfilling experiences there is!
Now to a few realities for the future. If you have not done so, you need to sit down with an advisor from the school you want to go to. You need to have a plan mapped out so that you are taking the appropriate courses here that will allow you to transfer right into their program. You don’t want to waste time and money, or find out that you don’t have the right classes.