Last school year I was thrown into the job very last minute and my entire first month was a hectic, crazy, (dare I say) waste of time. I was trying to figure out my job, I was trying to figure out my students, and I was trying to figure out the curriculum. But I survived and I know that by January I was feeling much, MUCH better about it all.
This coming school year I have time though. I know that I will be teaching a grade 5/6 split next year. I know the school and I would guess that I've already taught about 60% of my students already (because I taught a few different grade levels this last year). So why not think about this last year, think of areas I could improve on, and think about what makes a great teacher?
In my search for the answer to this I have found many, MANY people have already written on this exact topic.. so I've narrowed down the reading list to 3.
1. What Makes a Great Teacher?
This one was a good place to start. A lot of good ideas like engaging students and being organized but I'm not sure I can get on board with "being an expert in their subject area" or *gasp* "communicate frequently with parents".
Here's the thing... we can't be experts in everything. I know my weaknesses... I'm not too found of Social Studies and I don't have all the answers for Science does that make me a bad teacher? I don't think so. As for the communicating with parents thing? To do that frequently would be a lot of work. This last year I called one of my parents about every other week to inform her of things going on and I would email a couple of my students parents maybe once a month (I had a crazy schedule this last year though so this is speaking of my grade 4's... whom I never saw in the afternoon when parents may come to pick them up). I would also occasionally write notes in agendas or make sure I was back at the classroom at the end of the day to speak with a students parents... but I did not make this a priority. If I did these things for EVERY student I wouldn't have had much me time... and me time is very important to well... me! (but I would also think it is important to my students because if I don't get my me time I'm going to turn into a grump).
BUT... before you figure out where I'm teaching and call the administration hold your horses ladies and gentlemen... I have a plan for this next year... remember how I got my job last minute last year... I didn't have time to think about parent communication (it was also my first year teaching). This coming year I'm going to attempt a monthly newsletter for my classroom. I'll tell parents what we are up to, what they can be working on at home with their children, what's coming up, maybe a photo or 2, maybe some student work. I haven't quite figured out all the details yet but hopefully I'll have a template put together in the next couple of weeks so that all I have to do is input information. The other part of this plan is to use our agenda books! I think I'm going to have them write down what we did for each class at the end of the day (or as we go through the day... they are in grades 5/6... they could probably handle it on their own). This way parents know what their child is doing all day. Hey, it's a start... and a pretty good start I would like to think!
2. Weigh In: What Makes a Great Teacher?
Honestly, I included this one because 1) it was put out by Scholastic and 2) it included a lot of insight from superintendents. If you are currently looking for a job you may want to take a gander at this.
3. What My Students Think Make a Great Teacher
I liked this one because it was what students actually thought... honestly, it doesn't really matter what your administration thinks, your teaching partner, the teacher across the hall, or the teacher across the country... you are there for your students and if they think you are great (and you are managing to get some knowledge in their heads) then I say you are doing a great job.
and what do I think makes a great teacher?
Well I'm going to keep it simple with my top 5 reasons (confession: I tried to make it 3 but I just couldn't do it!). So in no particular order....
1. A teacher should be there for his/her students. Talk to them, engage with them, listen to them. This doesn't mean you have to be their friend.. lay down the law when you have to... the classroom can't be a circus no matter how badly the class wants it that way.
2. A teacher should be a good role model. If you have a wild and crazy weekend your students don't need to know about it. You're students should look up to you and that means that you make good decisions. Sure we all lose our cool in the classroom every so often but (I think) what a good teacher would do after he or she loses his cool is apologize or be able to calmly talk about what happened.
3. A teacher should be organized. My first month of teaching last year I felt so disorganized and frazzled... I'm going to really try to be organized this year... not just with my stuff but with my room as well. I have big plans for the way I want it to look and I really REALLY hope it doesn't look like a disaster after a month (or week)... I might cry.
4. A teacher should be engaging. I think it is okay to *gasp* teach from a textbook. Someone paid a lot of money for those textbooks so why not use them? But they shouldn't be the only way you teach. I used our math textbooks a lot last year but I also had them do a graphing unit on the olympics (which wasn't at all from the textbook). We made area and perimeter names and people and played different games to practice division and multiplication. Sure you have to get some knowledge into those heads but you can have fun while doing it... that's definitely allowed!
5. A teacher should love what they do. If you don't love what you do maybe your profession isn't for you (this could be for anyone by the way... not just teachers). This doesn't mean that you should love what you do every single day. You are going to have bad days, you are going to have days that you want to go home and cry, you are going to have some horrible, terrible, no good, very bad days. That doesn't mean you don't love what you do.
Anything I should be adding to the list?
What do you think makes a great teacher?
I found this link after I had written this... Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher I think they really hit the nail on the head so to speak... the article is a home run.. I feel like my list above is so inadequate. Gah... just check out the link.