“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” ~William Arthur Ward
On June 9th, 2014, I accepted my first teaching position and began putting together resources for the new school year. The start of school is now less than three weeks away and my anticipation is building with every passing moment. I was browsing Reddit.com (as I tend to do every day) when I came across a post in a sub-Reddit specifically geared towards teachers (/r/teachers) that asked the question “How do I be an amazing teacher?”
I have often asked myself the same thing; “what things can I do to be a ‘good’ teacher?” and “what does a ‘good’ teacher look like?” I did well enough in University so I should be fine… right? Right? This summer I read through a number of first-year teacher books in search of the answers to my questions. One of the most influential of the bunch came from Harry and Rosemary Wong, “The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher“. This book emphasizes the importance of being prepared and gives practical examples of what being prepared looks like. So, I prepared. I have lesson plans, unit plans, yearly plans, discipline plans, first day plans. So… will I be an amazing teacher if I’m prepared?
One of the posts to the question on Reddit put so perfectly what I was missing. I searched for the post today and was unable to find it so I will paraphrase to the best of my ability (the original was far better): A great teacher is rarely remembered for their tests, assignments, lesson plans. A great teacher is remembered for their commitment to their students and for investing in their lives. Being a constant in an inconsistent world and a building a relationship that goes beyond the subjects taught. OK… so a great teacher has good relationships with their students. That message was made very clear throughout my time at University. Instruction is pointless without relationship.
As with most things in life, I suppose the answer really lies within both answers. Obviously planning is important. I have been hired to instruct children and the curriculum sets out what they should learn this year. That is my job and to do my job well, I will need to be prepared. As I think about it now, it is also apparent to me that to have good relationships with my students, I will also need to be prepared. I cannot imagine getting to know the lives of my students if my mind is consumed with all of the material we need to accomplish. Being prepared for the year allows me to spend more time with my students. As an added perk, it also allows be to spend more time with my family.
Another comment on the Reddit post struck me. It said something to the effect of, and I paraphrase again: Good teachers come in all different packages. Some teachers are hilarious, some teachers are interesting and some teachers are inspirational. You can only be the teacher who you are. Find what works for you and how you connect with kids and run with it. It’s the same message we give to our students… be yourself and don’t try to be someone you are not. Wise words.
I am SO excited to begin my teaching career. I have been waiting a very long time to teach my own classroom and watch my own students learn and grow. I am not naive enough to think that I will be an amazing teacher on day one. I know that there will a lot of mistakes, opportunities to grow, and things I will need to adapt and change. I am so thankful that I have a group of experienced teachers I can ask questions to and seek guidance from. #FallisComing and I can hardly wait another moment.