Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Impress your students

Knowing the content is a given.  It is a bare minimum expectation.  It impresses few people who can easily look up content online.

Having a prepared lesson plan is a given.  Being prepared to teach is also a minimal requirement.  Preparing a class is not impressive.

Knowing content and being able to plan a lesson are the minimal basic skills/requirements to even deserve to stand in front of a class and be called, "teacher."  However, neither of them are nearly enough to make anyone care about what you are doing.

In a world where sharing and transparency is the new norm (and a most valuable asset), the walls of your class no longer protect your class.  Teachers cannot hide behind content and planning for evidence of success.  The world desires more and is expecting our schools to model these values.  Like it or not, that is becoming more of a reality.  This adjusted reality can make some of us uncomfortable, but it shouldn't.

After all, the expectations of value beyond content and planning should be a refreshing change for those of us who entered the field of education to do more than pour content into our students and write lesson plans.  My decision to be a teacher wasn't because I wanted to prove how much about the subject I knew or how organized and purposeful my planning was.  It was to help kids.  It was to be a part of their growth.  It was to support them as they work to get better each day.  Maybe you became a teacher for similar reasons; maybe not.  It doesn't matter why because the reality is that in an environment where content and planning no longer impress, we are called to be more.

So, how do you impress students?  Here are a few thoughts.

1.  Demonstrate a commitment to learning.  Sure content isn't very impressive, but being dedicated to continuously learning more about your field is.  Share what you are learning with your class.

2.  Try something new.  Even if it doesn't work out as well as expected, taking a chance and sincerely gathering feedback to do it better next time is impressive.

3.  Be friendly.  Learn all your students names.  Greet them each day.  Smile.  Laugh with them.

4.  Be responsive.  Answer questions.  Be aware of the signals (verbal and non-verbal) you are receiving and make adjustments.

5.  Provide growth opportunities.  Instead of telling students you want them to do better, give them a chance to do better.  Take an assignment and provide individual feedback.  Give it back.  Provide a chance for the student to make improvements.  Reward the effort and difference.

Being impressive may not be the goal in and of itself.  However, working to be more "impressive" may move your students to take more interest in meeting their goals, which ultimately should be one of your goals.
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