Ahh… I love summer. A time to relax, enjoy my family, read, reflect, breathe… This summer I created for myself a mountain of professional books that sit in my office like a giant “To Do” list. When the mood to read something professional comes on me I go down to my office, closely inspect the mountain, and make my choice. Last week I went to the mountain and the book Teach With You Strengths: How Great Teachers Inspire Their Students by Rosanne Liesveld and Jo Ann Miller called out to me. From the first page I was hooked. The “Ah Ha” moments kept coming page after page drawing me in deeper and deeper. Then I came to this quote “…great teachers tend to like young people a lot, what they really love are learners. They love being part of someone’s development. They love knowing that they played a significant part in someone’s life.” (p.31) This quote has stuck with me even when I completed the book and placed it on my shelf. It, for me, speaks to who I aspire to be as an educator and what I think makes a truly great teacher.
Great teachers love learning themselves, and love to learn about and with the children in their classroom. At the start of every school year they look forward to meeting their students, and getting to know them as individuals, sure… as learners absolutely! This can be a challenge when many of our students enter our classrooms with pre-assigned labels. Average, below average, above average, gifted, struggling…the list goes on and on. It can be so easy to take the pre-assigned labels and make it your perceptions of the students for the rest of the year. To sort and sift the students in your class into groups based on these labels and then teach the groups at the level their label indicates.
Great teachers see beyond and through the labels and see who the students are as learners. They strive to learn about their learners, to discover ways they can support them, inspire them, empower them. Great teachers are part mind reader, trying to get into the heads of their students to see how they are thinking, discover where comprehension is breaking down, and develop strategies to help their students succeed. They are not afraid to take risks, try something new and admit when it didn’t work, refocus and try something new again. Great teachers do all this because they LOVE learning and learners.
As an educator, I strive everyday to be a great teacher. This desire is not to be the best as part of a competition, but to be the best I can be…for me and for the students in front of me. My desire to improve has driven my to learn more, reflect more, ask more questions, seek more answers, connect with my students as individuals and as learners. It is a challenge, and some days it can be very hard with all of the demands placed on my time, my knowledge, my abilities. I always try to remember that each day is a new opportunity to learn with and from my students. To remember that I am not in this alone, that there are always people around who can support me.
As the new school year emerges I renew my committment to myself to strive to be a great teacher. This year my learners won’t always be children but more often teachers. My challenge will be to support them in their learning, to learn with them, and to learn from them. To support, empower and inspire them to the best of my abilities, and to continue to learn so that I can be better teacher for my “students” and for myself. It is a challenge, that to be honest scares me, but it is a challenge I am prepared to meet head on because I LOVE learning and learners.