Seven, fingers-down-the-blackboard, cringe-worthy statements that we cannot accept from any educator.
1: That’s how I’ve always done it.
The best teachers constantly reflect on their professional practice by asking themselves, “How can I do this better?” As education reformer John Dewey stated, “We don’t learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.”
As teachers, we must constantly reflect and adapt. We must harness the power of reflection in our daily practices. Failing to reflect leaves the teacher—and thus the students—in the dark. Oppositely, reflective teachers constantly question their choices so they can become more effective.
2: I’ve taught it, they just don’t get it.
Highly effective teachers create a positive atmosphere in their classrooms. Carol Dweck categorized teachers into two categories, those with a growth mindset and those with a fixed mindset. Those with a fixed mindset immediately and permanently place students into preset categories with the responsibility for meeting their unique learning challenges on the students. Those teachers with the growth mindset viewed learning as a shared responsibility. Needless to say, in classrooms where teachers have a growth mindset, student gains are significantly higher with even the lowest-performing students making significant gains.
When students don’t get it, instead of saying, “I’ve taught it, it’s on them now,” we must instead ask ourselves, “What do I do now to make sure they’ve learned it?”
3: I don’t believe in redos and retakes. They’ve had their chance.
Again, I’ll go to the seminal work of Dweck. If we teach students that their intelligence can increase, they’ll do better in school. Failure is part of the learning process and provides an opportunity to improve. We must teach our students to rise to the challenge of our high expectations, to continuously learn, and we must reward students for their sustained efforts.
4: My responsibility is to teach the content.
Before reaching our students’ minds, we must reach their hearts and souls. Great teaching starts with building personal relationships with our students. Each student enters our classrooms with unique needs, strengths and differences.
Learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum. We must take the whole student into account to ensure the success of each student.
We cannot ignore these differences if we want students to reach their potential.
5: The student doesn’t have the prerequisite skills.
We must take the time to pre-assess and teach students and prerequisite skills they lack. Assessing and addressing student performance must occur prior to full-blown instruction.
Doing so requires additional and creative planning and often it requires a school-wide effort. Whether it’s through differentiation or devoting extra time, energy or resources, plowing ahead without ensuring students possess the prerequisite skills is futile.
6: The student has no support outside of school.
While impactful, we can’t use lack of support, socio-economic status, or a student’s family situation derail what we do. We have tremendous ability to overcome these obstacles simply by believing in our students and their abilities. Equally important we must believe in our abilities as teachers to make a difference.
7: I can’t be held accountable for each student.
We ARE responsible for each student in each of our classes. It’s an incredible responsibility, but one the best teachers embrace.