My Teaching #Top5

#integrity #creativity #patience #grace #reflection


Integrity

It goes without saying that we should have honesty in all we do; it’s the basis for establishing trust. As colleagues in a school building, we depend on each other to do what needs to be done to fulfill the campus vision, support each other in our work, and always be doing what’s best for our students. We need administrators that we can trust to be leading, supporting, and encouraging. We look to them to establish a campus vision and then stay true to it, making decisions that align to those goals. Our jobs are made much easier just by knowing that we’re working with people of integrity.

More importantly, our students need to trust us. They need to know that our relationships with them are honest. This becomes key when we critique them in any way; the level of trust we’ve established goes a long way towards whether they can accept it. If we’ve proven our honesty to them already, you’re more likely to get a reflective response rather than a defensive one. That trust comes through the honest feedback, praise, and encouragement we’d been giving from the start. If all else is failing on campus, the teacher-student relationship is going to be the most critical thing that has any chance of making a difference.

Creativity

Creativity is a necessary component of teaching if we’re looking to prepare our students for their future. ‘Knowing’ isn’t as critical as the ability to apply what you know to solve problems. As a teacher, creativity is building activities that foster students’ future-ready skills. These include the 4 C’s of collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking. That’s not likely to occur in traditional ‘sage on the stage’ lecturing, worksheets, and rote practice. As teachers, we have to be creative to find ways to engage our students, to create relevance for them, and find ways for them to be successful. That requires creativity.

Creativity also comes into play in our ability to deal with the obstacles and frustrations that accompany working in education. It’s a tough job, in many ways, and we have to be creative in how we respond. Teachers deal with demands placed on them by district, administration, colleagues, student behaviors, and whatever else surprises us on any particular day. Not to mention the tight budgets and time constraints. All of this requires a level of creativity in how we respond in order to avoid stress and burnout.

Patience

Patience is both a virtue and hard to come by these days in our schools with the aforementioned demands. There’s a plethora of things that seek to push your buttons, take away your time, and add to your workload. And that’s not including the challenging students. The demands placed at work, while dealing with the demands of our personal lives, challenges us every day to be patient. It’s a long haul and we have to be willing to see it through. Whether it’s the school district, the adults, or the students, (or even ourselves) change and growth can take time. We want to see results and we want to see them fast, especially considering the time and effort we put into it getting those results; however, we can’t control the response of others. We can only control our own response and that’s where we have to decide to be patient.

Grace

We all make mistakes. We all have issues that haunt us, drag us down, interfere with our health, etc. If I’m not willing to have empathy for that truth in others and to forgive, I only allow stress and bitterness to invade my life. (read this https://t.co/810fhSnvSi) It’s a hard thing to pause and put yourself in the shoes of another; even harder to think through and consider their perspective, especially when our initial response is that we’ve been wronged in some way.

As teachers, we deal with the ‘mistakes’ of others on a regular basis. Students, colleagues, and administration all find ways to need our forgiveness. Students, in particular, try our patience on a regular basis. If you consider it, though, how often would you really say there was an intentional effort to slight you personally? People don’t generally have malicious intent; it’s the byproduct of an internal struggle. Granted, there are those repeat offenders who don’t seem to learn from their errors but even then, rest assured, there’s a story behind that behavior. The past is a heavy burden and we don’t know the invisible baggage our students and staff are carrying. Seek to have the grace for others that you hope they have for you when you make your next mistake.

Reflection

Continuous improvement requires reflection. Without it, we continue to do the same things, the same way… and then still expect things to get better somehow. If we don’t look back on what we’ve done to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of our actions, how would we know what to change? Unfortunately, we see this often in our schools. Granted, it’s likely a consequence of the pace and amount of work that we have to do (or think we have to do); so reflection gets neglected. When our work becomes a checklist of to-dos it’s easy for that to happen. Likely we’re all guilty of it but we still, if somewhat unconsciously, tend to reflect on what we’ve done on some level. We can only get better by reflecting more intentionally to understand and build on our strengths and improve on our weaknesses.

As teachers, we have to reflect on our lessons and our interactions with students. We have to reflect over longer timeframes to consider our pacing and content. We have to reflect on our professional development activities to embed the knowledge and skills. For our students, we need to model this kind of thinking because it’s a critical skill for our students in order to improve and it doesn’t come to us naturally in the context of professional development. It’s a learned behavior, particularly when you’re using it professionally to assess yourself and your work. There are tools we can use, as well, to enhance our reflection like video recording your lesson. Make time to reflect on your work.

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