Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Great Teacher? Continued

The best teachers teach from the heart, not from the book. ~Author Unknown

This post continues on where the last post left off. Here are the next five characteristics that make up a "great" teacher, according to my surveyed students. Just as the past five made me think about my actions in the classroom, these five do as well and make me reflect on how I interact with students daily. There's always room for improvement and, in some areas, there's lots of room!

So, according to my students, a "great" teacher...

6.  Is flexible with schedule and lessons—not married to lessons or order. Willing to make adjustments. See number one.
       Here was an area that received 100% inclusion on all surveys. Flexible teachers were ones who were open to changing lessons and changing presentations based on how students learned, what was happening in school, adjustments that needed to be made, and so on.
Lesson learned: Don’t be so married to my lessons that I ignore my students’ academic needs.Is it more important for students to understand material and master it or just be exposed to material which they quickly forget?

7. Cares about students and gets to know who they  are and what they like/dislike
       Again, this was a big issue. Teachers spent time just talking to students, relating to them as people and finding out about who that student was. What does that student do in his/her free time? Does he/she have sibilings? What are their likes and dislikes?
Lesson learned: Just talk to kids. It’s important.

8. Are genuine in their care about students
       This is similar to the above characteristic. But there is a difference. Students don’t want to feel conned. They want to feel the interest a teacher takes is sincere. My students can spot a phony a mile away. 
Lesson learned: let my actions show how I really feel—if I care about my students, show that care in the little things. Remembering the little things about students sends a big message to them that you care.

9. Has a positive attitude about students—believes they can learn
       This is closely tied into number 4. Students need to know you believe in them. Lesson learned: Affirm students and any small progress so they know you believe in them.
Lesson learned: All students can learn something. Believe it and teach like it.

10. Is an active participant—not someone who just sits at a desk

       Students like to feel as though school is a partnership, not a solitary activity. During time when they are working independently or in groups, they want teachers who interact with them. If they ask a teacher a question, they want an answer. They don’t want to be ignored.  
Lesson learned: Engage students in discussions and ask questions during independent work time or during group time. Be an active teacher. Pay attention and respond to their questions and comments. 

       There are five more to go, but this is interesting stuff. It's always good to get input from students and if we listen close enough to what they're saying, we may just learn a thing or two.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Great Teacher?

The best teachers teach from the heart, not from the book. ~Author Unknown

           What does it mean to be a “great” teacher? Does it involve being a friend to students? Being a dictator? Being relaxed? Letting things slide? I’ve often wondered what it means to be “great” in the eyes of my students, so, one day, I asked them. 
       In a survey, student responded loud and clear about what they believed made a "great" teacher. From that survey came 15 resounding characteristics. That doesn't mean this list is the end all/be all. It jsut represents my students at the time. If I surveyed another group of students would I get different characteristics? Some, perhaps. But I believe the students mostly nailed this list. What do you think?
       The next three blogs will explore these 15 qualities in five-characteristic segments.
As you read, evaluate yourself. You may be surprised at the results. I know I was.

A “great” teacher…
1. Knows his/her students.
       A great teacher to the students wasn’t one who the content to the ninth degree; it was someone who knew them. Yes, the teacher knew the material, but that person also knew how the students learned and presented material in different ways for different students. Lesson learned: Students all learn differently.
 Lesson learned: It’s my job to maximize learning , so it’s also my job to know the students well enough to know how to maximize their learning.

2. Understands that everyone has a bad day.
       This came up again and again with my students. They believed a great teacher was one who understood that not everything is perfect in the world, especially not their worlds. The students felt sometimes they had issues they were dealing with which were more important than school. Maybe it was a fight with a family member or friend or a recent breakup.
 Lesson learned: Students have lives outside of school. Sometimes that life includes bad days. Recognize that and adjust for it.

3. Recognizes that not everyone loved the content area as much as the teacher.
       Not everyone loves English. In fact, most of my students are at the other end of the spectrum. They especially dislike writing. And they let me know that, daily. In the survey, students wrote that great teachers didn’t assume everyone loved the content area as much as the teacher nor did that teacher believe everyone had the same adeptness at it.
Lesson learned: Not everyone loves my content area as much as I do. Realize it, accept it and teach accordingly.

4. Doesn’t make the student feel inferior or “dumb.”
       Sometimes it’s easy to lose patience when trying to teach a concept and the student just doesn’t get it. This, obviously, must happen often with students as they related it in volume in the survey. Some teachers see the student doesn’t understand something and makes derogatory comments about the student’s ability. Some of my students claimed they had been called dumb, slow, lazy and other “uplifting” terms.
Lesson learned: If I want students to engage in learning my content area, show them respect rather than inferior and “dumb.” No one likes that feeling.

5. Laughs with students (not at)  and can take a joke.
       This is another area that students believed characterized a great teacher. Someone who teaches but also laughs with the students. Jokes around. Has a sense of humor. Laughs at him or herself and mistakes made. I think this is tough for some teachers because of the need to always feel in control and to feel in charge. The more we can laugh at ourselves, I think, the more relaxed our classrooms will feel to the students. Environment is important!
Lesson learned: The more I laugh with my students, the less they laugh at me.

The next blog will cover five more characteristics. Kids are smart and know what they like.I can learn a lot from them. Maybe it's time to start listening.