We’ve all come across a teacher who has had an impact on our lives in one way or the other. The teacher that challenged us to be better than we are or the teacher that made us never want to see the classroom again. As an educator, we have to decide the imprint that we want to leave on the life of the students that come into our classrooms each year. Will we be transformative teachers? Will we see students for only what they currently are or for what they can be? Will we allow color and race to inhibit our ability to reach the student or will we open our arms and welcome different skin tones and nationalities.
Maya Angelou said these words:
This is the value of the teacher, who looks at a face and says there’s something behind that and I want to reach that person, I want to influence that person, I want to encourage that person, I want to enrich, I want to call out that person who is behind that face, behind that color, behind that language, behind that tradition, behind that culture. I believe you can do it. I know what was done for me.
As an educator, I must challenge myself and others daily to raise the bar in the classroom. Raise the bar on student achievement and believe the students can reach it. Don’t limit the students in your classroom by your own prejudice, laziness, stereotypes, and preconceived notions about their learning. I believe every student can learn and learn at high levels, but it is my role as a teacher to find out how to reach that student by understanding how he/she learns. I must differentiate my instruction so that no student is left out. Some teachers are frustrated by this level of instruction only because they are not putting in the time to become effective at the “art” of teaching. Being an effective teacher requires time, preparation, training, a caring heart, and high expectations of themselves and their students.
Bill Sanders, formerly at the University of Tennessee’s Value-Added Research and Assessment Center, says that the most important factor affecting student learning is the teacher. In addition, his research results showed wide variation in effectiveness among teachers. The immediate and clear implication of his findings were that seemingly more can be done to improve education by improving the effectiveness of teachers than by any other single factor. Effective teachers appear to be effective with students of all achievement levels, regardless of the level of heterogeneity in their classrooms.6
Apart from parents, teachers have one of the highest responsibilities of adults toward children. From kindergarten through college teachers have done more to shape the lives of their students than any other person. Therefore, there is a critical need for preparing teachers for the classroom.
In the Biblical teachings of James, chapter 3 and verse 1, it says: “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”.2 Parents will be the first to either thank or blame a teacher if their child learns well or does not learn. Society will look to the teacher and school if test scores are low or if learning results are high. Although teachers are paid much less than they are worth, they must have high standards for themselves and for their students.
As we walk back into the classroom for the 2016-2017 school year, what is your measure of effectiveness? If you are a school leader how are you holding your teachers accountable for student learning? How are you measuring student learning? Where is the bar in the classroom? If you are a teacher, are you prepared for this school year? What will you do differently this year that you were not able to do last year? What training and professional development have you taken part in that prepares you to educate your students in today’s learning environment? What fears do you have that are hindering you from truly being an effective 21st-century educator?
As you plan to go back into that classroom, be ready to step out of your comfort zone, embrace change, and have fun. Do what is best for your students and not necessarily what is easiest for you. If it enhances student learning, it’s worth a try for your student’s sake. Change can be good and it helps us to not focus so much on what has happened in the past but it helps us to look to the present and plan for the future. Embrace change and use it to help improve student learning. Finally, don’t be afraid to laugh…even if it’s at yourself! No one likes a grumpy teacher and that includes students and your peers alike. You are there for the students and they are more likely to learn and grow when they see your passion and enthusiasm regarding what you’re teaching.
All my best to you in the upcoming school year! God bless!
Director, K-12 Instructional Technology