Monday, March 24, 2014

Slice of Life - Qualities of a Great Teacher

Slice of Life is sponsored on Tuesdays by Two Writing Teachers. For the month of March we are posting a slice each day on our blog. Join in!

This morning I stumbled upon this Tweet from a friend and fellow educator and paused:

Of course, teaching is my passion. I think about it often. On time off from school, I work. I plan. I read and write about my job. It is what I do. But is it fair to expect that from all teachers?

A friend on Facebook also linked me to this article in The Atlantic today. In researching the impact of parental involvement on a child's education they found that one of the biggest factors of a child’s success in school was the teacher. Specifically, parents requesting the best teachers. A great teacher's impact is not new, I’ve read this in a multitude of research studies.

With these two questions/ concepts swirling in my brain, I couldn't help but feel like we have more pressure as a professional than ever before. We need to be teaching children to be prepared for the 21st century. We need to conform to a new set of standards, a new testing system. Students should have technology embedded into their lessons – but the learning should be authentic. Our classrooms should have fabulous classroom libraries, be able to accommodate group work and individual learning, and be engaging environments where kids want to learn.

I understand the importance of all of this and believe in it – well, maybe not the testing. However, I am struggling where we hold teachers accountable. I spend too much time thinking about school. I don’t think every teacher should necessarily be required to do the same. I spend thousands (yes, plural) on a yearly basis on my classroom – specifically the library. Should other teachers be judged if they don’t? I don’t think so. At some point my family might want to go on a vacation instead. Or remodel our kitchen.
J This made me wonder, what are my non-negotiables. What should all teachers “have”? I sat down and brainstormed a list.

I think teachers should:

Have a passion for learning. This is free and doesn’t necessarily mean you have to devote all of your free time to work.

Have a love of teaching. Again, free. I love helping kids understand concepts. I love seeing the light bulb moment.

Be well read – professionally and for their students. My students read because I read. I share my reading life, I recommend books, and I show them what a reader looks like. I love that I know math teachers (Brian) and AP Chem teachers (Alaina) that read what their students are reading and recommend books to them. I believe the impact of those acts are immeasurable.

Enjoy spending time with kids. You wouldn’t think this even needed to be stated…

Foster relationships. Without relationships there is no teaching. Period. That is where I begin the school year – creating relationships between myself and my students, myself and their parents, and our classroom community. This is my top non-negotiable.

Teachers do have a huge impact. I know many teachers today aren’t sure if they would recommend the job to someone just starting out. The pay is not great, the time commitment can be tough, and the pressure is huge. That being said, after eighteen years teaching – in private schools, public schools, urban areas, rural areas – there is nothing I would rather do. So, after all of that, I came to the conclusion that teachers do need to have a passion for the profession, it just doesn't need to consume their lives as much as it does mine.

What do you think? Is it ok for teaching to just be a job and nothing more? What are your non-negotiables? I’d love to continue this conversation and learn from all of you in the comments. Have a great Monday!