Think back to all the amazing teachers you ever had. What do you think about?
Chances are you aren't thinking about how they taught you long division or about the Revolutionary War. I'd imagine you're thinking about how they made you feel. You probably have an emotion tied to that teacher, maybe they helped you believe in yourself, maybe they encouraged and motivated, maybe they pushed you beyond what you thought possible.
You might consider thinking of teaching as an art. Like all artists, the only way to become a master is to reflect on your craft and seek ways to improve. You might have noticed that amazing teachers are the ones that are constantly seeking to improve, that are open to change and embrace growth.
In my previous blog post, Teacher Expectations Make a Difference, I provided links to different ideas that could help your students achieve.
BUT… before we look at helping our students we have to reflect on ourselves first. Like a master artist, what are areas that we need to improve in?
Here are two areas that I'd like for you to reflect on: Classroom Environment and Students Expectations.
If we want our students to achieve, do we create an environment that is conducive to do so? Beyond what your classroom looks like, beyond classroom rules, procedures and routines…take a few seconds to think about your classroom environment.
What kind of environment have you and your students created? Here are few questions to help with reflecting:
- Do all my students feel welcome?
- Do all my students know how I feel about them?
- How do other students react when a student gets an answer wrong?
- Are students in my classroom comfortable with sharing ideas?
- Do my students encourage each other?
Your goal as a a teacher should be to, create a classroom environment where:
- students feel safe to take academic risks and are encouraged, not only by the teacher but also by each other
- mistakes are seen as opportunities to continue growing and not as failure
- learning is the goal of the students as much as the teacher's goal
- learning is fun and students enjoy coming to school
- the kids go home more tired than the teacher!
- the students are inspired to be awesome!
This kind of environment is possible but it takes the teacher modeling and guiding the students to foster this type of community. It doesn't happen over night, it takes a lot of dedication and constant encouragement from the teacher. It requires communication. As a teacher, you have to tell your students about the kind of environment you are trying to create. And after you TELL them, you have to SHOW them.
Does this sound like an ideal classroom? It doesn't have to be! I've seen these kind of classroom communities and they are fun to be in! It's all about how you as a teacher interact with your students!
If we want our students to achieve, we have to believe they can achieve!
So simple right?
Nope… not always. When I say they all can achieve… I'm talking about every. kid. in. your. class!
I'm talking about…
- the one in the back of the room that wants you to ignore him and never wants to be called on.
- the one that can't sit still in his chair.
- the one that is so low, she reads 2 years below grade level.
- the one that comes to school with yesterday's outfit on.
- the one that knows how to push your buttons.
- the one that other teachers call “the trouble-maker”.
- the one who's parents don't have any formal education.
- the one that you might not of spoken to after a whole day of instruction.
In the teachers' lounge I sometimes hear them referred to as “these” kids.
Reflect… do you separate your students? Do you have a group in your mind that are perceived as high achieving students and a group that are perceived as low achieving students? Do you believe all your students can achieve?
It is very common for teachers to accidentally do this. I am definitely not pointing a finger at anyone. I was certainly guilty of this too when I first started teaching.
But… if we can start to let go of these perceptions… if as a teacher you can start to believe that ALL students can achieve and set high expectations for all learners, then you will begin to see a big difference in your students attitudes and achievements!
- think their teacher believes in them will achieve!
- have positive affirmations on a daily basis will achieve!
- are given support will achieve!
- are encouraged and motivated to try will achieve!
Remember.. teacher expectations make a difference!
Leave me note below, tell me about what you do to encourage and motivate your students! I'd love to hear from you all!