The best teachers teach from the heart. This popular quote, one I’m sure many of you have heard, has been resonating with me for a long time. The power that we hold as educators to inspire a passion and deep love for learning is one of the greatest responsibilities we can ask of a person. This is not to be taken lightly. We can touch so many lives of students we encounter during our tenure as educators. Think of how powerful of a statement that is. Soak it in. Each and every day when our students enter our classroom is an opportunity to create meaningful and memorable lessons to augment student achievement, social, and emotional growth.
Sometimes we can lose sight of these simple goals because of the many directives that are handed down by a district and legislatures at the state and national level. Frustration can set in because we are told to participate in things that we know is not in the best interest of students. While we can’t be non compliant, we can stand up for what we believe is in the best interest of students. How can we teach from the heart?
The community and relationships we form in our classrooms are paramount. This must come even before we start to focus on the academic instruction. As we all know a student may not remember every lesson we teach, but they will remember how we made them feel. Talk to students and ensure their voices are heard. Value the feedback they provide and don’t be afraid of honest feedback. This open dialogue can go a long way to creating a classroom environment built on trust, honestly, and respect. Most students want to be pushed and challenged because that shows them their teacher believes in them.
As much as collaboration and working together as a team with your colleagues in your building and beyond your four walls in important, find a classroom system that works for you. It’s clearly important to be on the same page with team members, but let’s be honest. Each teacher has their own individual style, so forcing a one size fits all system is not going to foster and promote creativity in a classroom. Administrators should embrace this. If teachers have their own specific way to meet learning objectives in engaging ways, this is a positive. Teachers who are promoting creativity in their classrooms is an opportunity for others to come in for peer observations and can possibly open the eyes of hesitant staff members to new possibilities for what’s possible in a classroom. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Students are more than numbers:
We know we are teaching in a data driven society. I don’t mind that. As a matter of fact, when data is used correctly and appropriately, it can drive our instruction in meaningful ways. I have a problem when students are referred to as numbers only, be it DRA scores, lexile scores, or SBAC/PARCC scores. Nothing irks me more. While these numbers have a very small place when looking at the WHOLE child, there are many factors we also need to look at. How about social and emotional development? These are areas that need to be nurtured and focused on. Take the time to talk to your students. Stop them in the hallway to ask them how they day is going. If you know children has outside issues, find the help they deserve. Form lunch bunch groups for students to talk. The more time we invest in that aspect of the child, I’d like to believe that academic achievement will follow.
Reflection and Growth:
This cannot be understated. We can easily get lost the sheer amount of curriculum we are asked to cover in a year. We’re always expected to be moving onto the next topic. Sometimes this is done without the students best interests at heart. This can also led to a lack of reflection and opportunities for growth on our student’s part. For example, I’ve recently started using Seesaw as my digital portfolio tool to monitor student work. Students complete a task, upload it to Seesaw, and I can comment on their work. So, clearly that’s great. But if students don’t have a chance to make corrections and reflect on their own learning, what’s the point? Student need time to reflect on comments, set goals, and also have the ability to resubmit work. It’s not about the grade. It’s about the process of augmenting achievement based on feedback from teachers and peers. Please don’t lose sight of the importance of allowing time for students to make adjustments to their work. The intrinsic motivation they will feel when they can see their own growth can undoubtedly lead to higher motivation.
Promote creativity and allow autonomy:
Using a high tech/high touch blended learning approach, we can have students become content creators to demonstrate understanding in autonomous ways. Our students deserve this. Whether you teach ELA, science, social students, math, or our a specialist teacher, allow students to show you what they’ve learned in various ways. This can be done without the use of technology or using technology, if you have access. It’s not about the tool. It’s about students being allowed to have choice that best fits their learning style. If the lesson objective is met, it should not matter how it was achieved.
Vibe, energy, and passion:
Walking into your classroom everyday is a chance for you to bring your own vibe and energy to lessons. Most of the time students respond to a teacher’s enthusiasm and passion for their content. It’s infectious. It’s like that feeling when you attend a concert of your favorite band and everyone is there for a purpose. It’s that collective energy I try to attain everyday in my class That is my muse. It drives me. Magical things can happen when students are part of a classroom community with a shared purpose. Put your spin on how you teach. Show your students your personality. Let them in to who you are, not only as an educator, but as a person. Here are some photos from “Reading Warrior” day.
At the end of the day if you are making decisions based on your student’s best interests and teaching from the heart, that’s all we could ask for. Carve your own path and find your voice as an educator. But always remember to do right by what kids need. They need us now more than ever before.
I am a passionate teacher in Stamford, CT. I teach fifth grade ELA/Social Studies. I am proud to be an active member of the Twitter educational community. I am an organizer for #EdCampSWCT, a moderator for #ctedu, technology professional develop leader in my district, and a believer in a high tech/high touch blended learning approach to teaching. I am nominated for the Bammy of 2015 Elementary School Teacher of the Year. I am a certified administrator. I believe in taking risks and working collaboratively to augment student achievement. I love children’s literature and strive to become better everyday. I am a husband and father. Follow me on Twitter @mrsapia_teach