I’m willing to bet that you’re already an amazing teacher; proof number one being that you’re here reading this post. As wonderful as many of us are though, there is always room for improvement. I include myself in that because the truth is, as much as I may share information to help others, I myself am reading books and researching so that I may continue learning as well. I want to share 3 ways that we can continue to be effective educators. These are not ground breaking ideas, but are often ignored because they’re too obvious.
Lots of questions. Lots and lots of questions. As first year teachers we found ourselves asking many many questions because well, we just didn’t know the answer to any of them. We were probably thrust in a classroom and expected to know how to do it all as if it were magic. We all know that everything you need to know in order to teach is not learned in college. There is a wealth of knowledge that is gained from experience and from being surrounded by students. Theory and practice are two very different things and many times we learn this hard truth when we’re overwhelmed and wondering why in the world we chose this profession in the first place.
Most of the times we don’t ask questions because we are scared.
Scared of seeming ignorant and not knowing how to handle ourselves.
Scared of being judged and disregarded when we have novel ideas that could truly make an impact.
DO NOT let fear hold you back. People who want to learn ask questions. I know that in some instances it is easier said than done, especially if you have unsupportive administration or colleagues that make you feel inferior. Find people who inspire you and motivate you. People who have no issue with sharing some of their knowledge.
Many times we overcompensate and act as if we know something when we don’t so as not to look foolish. Remember that those who ask are the ones who learn.
This doesn’t only apply to first year teachers; this is for all of us. As long as we ask questions, we will continue growing.
Never stop growing
As humans, we are constantly evolving. As teachers, we are constantly evolving. Our growing and learning doesn’t stop when we become veterans in our field or when we seem to have mastered all there is to know about teaching. There’s always room for improvement and we can always be better. Teachers are leaders and leaders never stop growing. On a personal level, this is something that I am constantly thinking about. I ask myself, “what else is there for me to know and how much more can I grow?” Nobel prize holder, Eric Kandel is a neuroscientist. He helped to discover brain plasticity: the brain’s ability to change and adapt as a result of new experiences. Essentially, when we learn something new, the wiring in our brains changes. Our brain has the ability to grow and learn no matter how much we already know.
The moment we decide we know enough, is the moment we become stagnant.
In an ever-evolving world where we are confronted with new obstacles every year, it is imperative for us to continue to grow as educators. This thought process is not only essential for the classroom, but for every aspect of our lives. We are always seeking to know and grow, so why stop?
Try things you’re not good at
Because our brains are always growing as a result of new experiences, many of us could probably attempt things that we are not generally good at, but CAN become good at. I’ve heard many teachers say, “I’m not good at math or I’m not good at Science”, etc. We encourage our students to try new things all the time and we use phrases such as “change your words; change your mindset”, but we ourselves are very hesitant to try out the things we are not very good at. I can attest that initially, I did not enjoy teaching phonics. I dreaded it and always felt like it was a drag. I can, without hesitation, say that the reason why it was a challenge for me was because I didn’t truly understand it. I asked questions, I read books, I attended courses and now I am the one who teaches the Phonics course for my grade level in my district. That is not to say I am now the phonics guru, but I was able to grow and learn in an area that I was not strong in.
The truth is, the growth mindset that teachers often speak of, starts with the teacher. I love watching my students work through their struggles. In my beginning years, I wanted to jump in and “rescue” them, and often times, I did. When we jump in and stop students from digging deep and problem solving, we rob them of the opportunity to grow in areas they are not strong in; we rob them of their A-Ha! moments.
Just like we cannot rob our students, we should not rob ourselves of the opportunities either.
Saying we can become better doesn’t mean that we’re not good enough; it means, that we were created for greatness and everyday we step into the classroom we do life changing things. It means that we have the ability to change lives and sometimes asking questions or looking to grow more or trying new things is just the thing we need to change one life.