I’m not trying to encourage everyone to quit their job and work in a classroom. I just want to have you try and think of yourself as having a life role as a teacher. We are all teachers if you think about it, and I believe if we each start the day taking on that responsibility the world might become just a little bit better.
Two common teacher related questions are usually asked to us all at some point. One is “Who is your favorite teacher?” and the other is “Who is someone who has taught you a lot?”. When we think ‘favorite teacher’ we look back to our school years and think about the person who impacted us the most. For me it was my fourth grade teacher Mrs. Hughes. I don’t remember any of the fourth grade curriculum or a content specific skill she helped me with but I know she made learning fun and I enjoyed school the most with her. Her heart was in the classroom and I felt it.
As to the second question, there are so many people who have taught me a lot…some intentionally and some probably have no idea they did anything to impact me. None of them had the role of classroom educator, but if they have taught me something doesn’t that kind of make them a teacher?
So much of teaching is relational. If I made a top 5 list (in no particular order) of what makes a teacher great it would be this:
1. Have high expectations…it is the foundation for students seeing you believe in them.
2. Make your students feel recognized…small acts make the biggest differences.
3. Put your students before yourself…because they’re worth it.
4. Listen….so they know they’re heard
5. Encourage always…it’s needed always. Not with undeserved praise but instead with a push to keep trying.
I think these 5 things are what make teachers true leaders in the classrooms, and they can all be translated to our relationships with those around us. Give it a try and think about your daily interactions with people. Do people know you believe in them? Are you making those around you feel recognized? Are you putting others before yourself? How are you an encourager? Who is talking more in your conversations?
The one thing I know is true about teaching is that when you teach, you learn. The learning from the students comes from my engagement with them.
I don’t think we should try and lecture people every day and set goals of trying to teach them something tangible. That’s not the goal of the relationship part of teaching. In the classroom, yeah it’s my job to get content across but that’s not the only role of teacher. I guess I want to encourage whoever reads this to take that relational piece of teaching and try to exercise it. Teach by leading and setting an example. Be a light to others. Truly engage with, recognize and encourage those around you. Learn and keep moving forward by helping others do the same.
Teach. Always move forward.