This year I have a student teacher. She’s fabulous–eager, positive, motivated! One of her assignments was to ask my partner in crime and I about our “philosophy of teaching.” I told her, “Actually–I wrote a paper as an assignment for a graduate class I took several years ago!” Bringing it up again, it remains true today. I have changed A LOT of things about my instructional strategies but these values I still hold true.
- Students must believe that you care. By way of introduction, in my class, I tell all students that I am a member of their team. Their success is my success and vice versa. It is amazing to me that any student would think that a teacher is “out to get them.” I want my students to believe that, more than anything, I want them to shine. If I can get each one of them to believe that he or she is my favorite, I’ve done just that!
- Active students are thinking students. Although I avoid lecture as much as absolutely possible, there are times when I believe direct instruction is the clearest method of instruction. I want students to be sorting, moving, thinking, describing, hypothesizing…active!
- Never waste a minute. In my classroom, everyone (including me) is working hard from bell to bell. There is so much to think about and discuss, I don’t want to waste even a minute…and I don’t! When students say that my class is the fastest class in the day, I know that I must be doing something right. After all, time flies when you’re having fun.
- Students want to succeed. Many of my colleagues have said that students don’t care. They are lazy and uncooperative. On the contrary, every student I have ever had has wanted to learn. Some students have become experts at masking the desire to learn because they’ve been unsuccessful for so long, it is easier to pretend like you don’t care than to admit failure. I truly believe that if students are convinced that you believe they can learn, they’ll start believing, too.
- Students have learned when they can show you they have learned. Over the years I have become a huge advocate of the use of exit slips. In my class, I refer to them as the “Ticket to Leave.” I tie the question strictly to the objective for the day. The exit slips have become an accurate litmus test regarding the success or failure of all of my instruction. I also love being able to have one on one contact with each and every student.
- Be silly! Though I am, without a doubt, a type A person, I am also very silly—particularly in front of my students. When I let my guard down, so do they and we become like family. By the end of each year, I truly love my students and I’m convinced I will never love another group as much…that is, until next year.
- Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life. I’m not sure who first coined the phrase, but I believe it! Shhh! Don’t tell my boss, but there are days that I think I’d do my job for free. Everyday, I have eager students with a desire to learn and provide me with more encouragement that any person deserves. I hope my students can find a similar passion in life.
- Everything that is self-fulfilling follows hard work. I might have been a Puritan in another life. I believe in a hard day’s work and feeling good after a hard day’s work. Sure, my students can take an easy class where they can simply breathe and earn an A or they can challenge themselves. Though it may require more work, in the end, the payoff is a better education and the ability to think critically.
- Model good character. I’m certainly not perfect, nor do I pretend to be. However, I believe maturity is measured by progress in the qualities of goodness, honesty, integrity and humility. In addition to the Pythagorean Theorem Corollary, I would hope my students would walk away from my classroom with a lesson on these critical character traits.
- Praise! Praise! Praise! While I don’t feel students should receive hollow compliments, a thoughtful word of encouragement can change someone’s life. Critics of this generation say that they’ve received too much praise. I disagree. The truth is that the world regularly beats us down. We never feel smart or attractive enough. Insecurity is the unfortunate mantra of every teenager. During a time when parent-child relationships are strained, an uplifting word from a trusted adult is just what the doctor ordered!
How about you? What would you add as one of your Ten Commandments?