One of the greatest things about choosing teaching as a profession is the opportunity for lifelong, everyday learning. In my years in the classroom, I’ve learned everything from the latest dance crazes to which boy bands were in (and out). Consistently, each year, I learn and relearn how to be a better teacher from the very students I’m teaching. Below are five of the most important lessons that I have taken away from the classroom.
Teach the Whole Child
The student in your classroom is not just an English student, a maths student, or a science student. He is an athlete, a dancer, a gamer or a musician. Find what makes each student shine and incorporate it into the classroom. Assign projects where the outcome is open to interpretation, as long as the objective is met. As a teacher, bring your own interests into the classroom as well. Seeing each other as people, not just teachers and students, helps to establish community and rapport in the classroom.
Trust Until Given a Reason Not To
Most of our students want to help us, do well, and take responsibility. When we show respect and trust to our students, they will return the sentiment. Give students jobs in the classroom, trust them to make good choices, and guide them when they stumble. One of the most rewarding experiences I had in the classroom was when I gave a Grade 8 student the responsibility of doing the lunch count each morning. He was so excited to do his job each day. He relished the praise from the lunch lady and me. When his mother came in, she raved about how his behaviour had improved from the year before. He actually wanted to come to school – because of a simple thing like a classroom job. Sharing responsibility with students can also make classroom duties more efficient.
Leave Your Troubles At the Door
Make your classroom a haven for your students. If you had a bad morning, try your best to leave it outside. Take some deep breaths, have a cup of coffee or tea, enjoy an uplifting article or website before the school day begins. When students come in, they deserve a smiling face and a positive attitude. Happiness is contagious; so spread it around. When you encourage positivity, students will bring it to class.
Teach Empathy By Example
So many of us have experienced teachers who taught by fear, sarcasm and bullying. Students respond to these methods by shutting down, talking back and bullying others to increase their own self-esteem. One of the most important lessons I have learned is to truly listen and empathize with students in order to help them have the best experience they can. When students see me taking time to care about another student, it gives them a good example of how to act.
Laugh Every Day
We are lucky enough to have jobs where we get to experience many different personalities. Embrace the silly times, the passing period conversations, and the flat-out funny things that happen in school each day. Keep a journal or silly wall in the classroom where you can record funny sayings, jokes, or even pictures of activities that entertained the class. When you laugh every day, everything else will fall into place.
Use these lessons from students to assist in being an effective, empathetic and efficient educator. Have a wonderful year and keep learning!
By Betina Fuentes