Making a Difference
In my experience, there are three types of teachers walking on to campus for their first day of school this month and each has a distinctly different focus:
Creating a Good Learning Environment
Teacher A spent the last four weeks of summer vacation organizing and decorating her classroom. She sat in front of her Cricut machine for no less than 12 hours cutting out tiny letters and pictures to adorn the history and science bulletin boards that light up her classroom with a rainbow of primary colors. Having taught fifth grade for several years, she can’t wait to enlighten their young minds with the history of our great nation, or explain the interconnectivity of Earth’s systems.
Making Content Accessible
Teacher B didn’t return to school until the Friday before the students are set to return. After 12 years of teaching middle school math, she knows that pre-teens don’t care what she puts on the walls. She is all about math and often shows up to staff meetings in her pi sweatshirt telling jokes like: Why did I divide sin by tan? Just cos.
Being Prepared and Organized
Teacher C just finished getting his clear teaching credential a few months ago. He found out he got the English teacher job last Thursday and the students arrive on Monday. Ahhhh! He’s rushing around just trying to get a key to his classroom not to mention trying to figure out where to park, what to wear, and who are his best allies in the English department. He spends the entire weekend fueled with fear and caffeine organizing his classroom, planning the first few weeks of school, and getting to know the rest of the staff.
The three teachers above have three very different situations. So, what could they all possibly have in common?
Don’t worry, the answer is not Common Core State Standards! The answer is that they have one of the most important jobs in our society – educating our youth and making a difference in the lives of students.
Getting Back in the Classroom
Returning to school after a long summer break is exciting, nerve racking, and a super hectic time for students, teachers, and parents, too! As a student, don’t you remember getting those first-day butterflies in the pit of your stomach the night before the first day of school?
My 10-year-old inner monologue played out something like this: What teacher will I have this year? Will he be nice? Or will she be strict? Will I get to sit next to my best friend? What should I wear? I don’t want to look like I bought a new outfit just for the first day of school because then it would seem like I care too much. Should I ride the bus or have my mom drop me off? I want to get there early to figure out where my classroom is, but I don’t want to be too early and be the first student on campus.
Well, to let you in on a little secret, teachers have a similar inner monologue at the start of each school year: What students will I have this year? Will they be eager to learn? Will they be well-behaved? Will I be able to properly pronounce each student’s name? What should I wear? I want to make a good first impression and let my students know that I take my job seriously. But I don’t want to show up looking like the secret service in a suit and tie and seem unapproachable to my first graders.
The Difference between Good and Great
But the first-day jitters soon wear off, and before you know it students and teachers are back into the daily routine of learning. So, once everyone is off and running, what really happens in the best classrooms? It’s simple.
- Great teachers model what it means to learn by growing and evolving with the changes in education, technology, and culture.
- Great teachers have open minds and open hearts, and they never have preconceived notions about students.
- Great teachers are constantly looking for new ways to make the subject matter interesting and relatable.
- Great teachers come to class prepared and they teach with an enthusiasm that engages and inspires their students.
- Great teachers set lofty goals for themselves and for their students, and they bend over backwards to help students achieve those goals.
- Great teachers form positive relationships with parents and family members from the beginning so that they have an established rapport with should they have any issues during the year.
- Great teachers don’t just blindly follow the
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curriculum they are given; they evaluate and expand every lesson to its fullest potential, incorporating elements and activities for different types of learners.
- Great teachers continue to reassess and revise during and after teaching so that they can do it even better next year.
- Great teachers know that textbooks are not one-size-fits-all.
- Great teachers believe that as the decision-maker in their classroom, they are doing what’s right for the students sitting in front of them today.
So teachers, no matter how the school year began for you – whether you focused on the environment, the content, or the organization – remember that you have the opportunity – and really the obligation – to be the best teacher you can be for all those bright, shining faces that cross your threshold this year. They trust that you will nurture and respect them because you know you are growing the great minds of our future!