Monday, September 28, 2015

Slice of Life-Wondering

Slicing with the Two Writing Teachers community is a pleasure every week.  Thank you Stacey, Tara, Anna, Betsy, Dana, Kathleen, Beth, and Deb.

     
How do you become the teacher with the beautiful
red apple and a cup of pens and pencils on the desk?
I am working as an advisor to a young person who is working in an alternative licensing program started by a nearby independent school, separate from their own K-8 school, and now joining our Public Education & Business Coalition (PEBC) which will enlarge the established program quite a bit. This is not the first time I've done it, but it's been about three years since the last one. I am primarily in charge of the teacher, meetings, and observations with the resulting evaluations, reflections and goals for what's next. In addition, I also meet with the mentor teacher (a former colleague)  with whom he works closely in the classroom.  



            As I begin this work again, I am remembering again the conversations I've had with those who are beginners. I am fortunate because these young want-to-be teachers are already digging into teaching, working alongside the students, one-on-one or in small groups, "feeling" the movement of the day and the week, kid-watching. They come with questions, but also have seminars one afternoon a week, keep daily writers' notebooks of observations and wonderings, write papers about various topics every week. From what I remember, they're doing a lot more than I did during my "student teaching" year. 

           Yet, I wonder things, and this has nothing to do with the person with whom I'm now working, but it's a "generic" wonder. How does one teach another to teach? Don't we all have our specific and unique character as a teacher? Is this part of what makes a teacher good, figuring things out through doing, down "in the trenches"?  What is one important thing that you believe helps you, and others, be good teachers? Of course, knowledge of content and procedure is a given. Yet there's more, both elusive and personal. Here's my top ten. I imagine they need no explanation. Do you have one you would add?

  • Love the kids.
  • BE with them. Don't always worry about what's next, just enjoy what's happening NOW.
  • If you can't tell your students what it is you're going to teach them, and then how will you (and they) know if they've learned it?
  • Love the parents.
  • Discover a passion to share with students, and share it with them often.
  • Discover their passions, and let them share with you, and others.
  • Feed them! 
  • Shut up and listen.
  • Smile (laugh)-a lot.

30 comments:

  1. Love your list! It would be fun to compare a student list of best teacher traits! I'm still thinking what would be on mine.

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    1. What a great idea, to ask the students for their own list. Thanks, Molly.

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  2. Linda, I love your list and your question makes me stop and think. Here are a few that would be on my list: Make every decision with your students in mind!! Do what's best for them. Be authentic and share yourself with them. What lucky teachers to get to work with you!!!

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    1. Terrific additions, Michelle. Thanks. Maybe I'll collect all of these & share next time.

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  3. How lucky for this teacher... she gets to work with you!

    Your list is great. As a jumping-off point to "love the parents," I'd probably say "honor the parents as their child's first teacher." So often I think we neglect what parents know about their kids and the experiences they've had before they've gotten into the classroom.

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    1. So right, Stacey. I do remember thinking (as a new teacher) how much I thought I knew, versus asking much from the parents about their children. Through the years I valued my friendship with the parents very much.

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  4. Great list Linda. From a parent's point of view, I would add this one. Recognize that a learning disability does not define a student but add to this uniqueness.

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    1. Good to include, Bernadette, encompassing ALL the child, not just certain parts. Thank you.

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  5. One of the big things about teaching GT kids is to make sure parents tell us as much as they can about their child. We can learn so much about parents. Sometimes I wish we had a pre-school conference with parents where they could share who their child is. This was a thought-provoking piece for me.

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    1. We do have conferences before school, Kimberley. It is important, as you say. Teaching includes a myriad of tasks & having parents's knowledge is so helpful. Thanks.

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  6. See their (the students) side. Remember their perspective.

    Thanks for the reminders :)

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    1. Thanks, Michele, including the ideas from students is certainly key to their successful learning.

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  7. Great list, Linda. One thing that I would add that helped me many times would be to be flexible. So many things can disrupt a day that if I wasn't able to go with the flow and adjust my plans on the spot I don't think I would have lasted 40 years.

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    1. Oh yes! My go-to story of that is that I'd made what I thought were marvelous plans to walk to the capitol, climb to the top and say "this is your world" or something like that. Those plans flew out the window when a student walked in on crutches. He had broken his leg a few days before school started! Being flexible is key to keeping sane!

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  8. Shut up and listen. Yes, I am so glad to see this on your list. Sometimes I feel that we just don't do this nearly enough - and neither do their parents. The only thing I'd add is to observe closely, to look for the unspoken messages that kids wish we would read.

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    1. Thanks, Tara, for knowing about listening, and for adding in the observing. Paying close attention is key to loving the students, I think.

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  9. Love how you stirred everyone's thoughts. I would add: learn together with them.

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    1. Good addition, Terje. I will collect all these into a new list! Thanks.

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  10. I wonder it it is possible to teach someone how to teach? I think those who are effective teachers have an innate sense to teaching. Have a sense of wonder to your lessons would be my addition. Kind of goes along with your passion. Great list!

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    1. Having worked with several new teachers, I do wonder about that inner ability or intuition of the right thing at the right time. Thanks for adding another good idea, Elsie.

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  11. Great list, Linda. I love Tara's addition about unspoken learning. I would add embrace learning yourself. Show them that we all have learning to do so that they are brave and take risks. Maybe that's it--Be brave and take risks as you all learn together.

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    1. Thank you, Melanie. I like the words you used!

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  12. Having been a mentor teacher for several years, your questions and list really resonated. How can we teach to one standard? Yes there are things every teacher must share but every student teacher I worked with was so different. Wishing you well as you work with this new teacher. He is lucky to have you.

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    1. I agree, Beverley, everyone is different, in their approach and demeanor, what they bring to their teaching from their own education. Thanks for the comment. I do love how everyone is sharing their opinions.

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  13. Linda, you are a valuable mentor, reflective, patient, and open. Your list is invaluable. I would add be the guide on the side, not the sage on the stage. I think that is an important concept for new teachers so that they develop a watchful stance and teachable moments flow.

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    1. Love that, too, Carol. This accumulation is going to be a marvelous list! Thanks for the wise words.

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  14. A great list. I don't know if I could mentor another teacher. It's like I know what I know but I don't know how to get that across. Loving the students should be the top of the list, but can be so hard sometimes, especially when you have standards to meet. This should be the easiest.

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    1. I believe mentoring is similar to working with students, and first, as you say, you have to love them for who and how they are. I agree, there are so many differences in people, and some don't connect as well as others. That's a hard part as a teacher. You're right. Thanks, Margaret.

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  15. Love your list! Only one thing I would want to add: A hunger to keep learning (about teaching, about your content, about people, about life)!

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    1. That "life-long" idea of learning keeps coming up. Thanks, Ramona.

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Having a conversation is a good thing!