John C. Maxwell’s quote is appropriate in the description of an excellent teacher’s relationship with students, “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
An excellent teacher is that rare combination of someone who builds rapport with students to better understand their academic needs and personal interests and someone who engages and inspires students to have a passion for learning. An excellent teacher engages all students by using instructional strategies that meets the learning styles of the students, allows for choice, develops global skills (collaboration, communication, critical thinking, creative problem solving, and digital literacy), and inspires students to want to learn more.
In this age of standardized testing, do we really have teachers like that anymore? Teachers who infuse a variety of strategies in each lesson. Teachers who allow choice in the classroom. Teachers who develop global skills (of today – not 60 years ago). Teachers who inspire their students. Of course, we do. They are everywhere – in every school, in every district, in every state. Some of these teachers are easy to find because they work for administrators who inspire their teachers and promote these same strategies in the classroom. Unfortunately, many have to play the “dog and pony show” game when administration comes to call. Many must hide their innovative instruction behind the closed door of the classroom. Many are chastised for having a chaotic and unruly classroom because students are communicating, moving around, and working on different activities while the teacher facilitates learning.
Where are all of the “excellent” teachers? Some are retiring – for it is difficult to fight the system. Some are hiding – for it is easier to play the game when admin visit than to fight a losing battle. Some are no longer teaching – for sticking to their principles cost them the ultimate price. Some are happily teaching – for they were fortunate enough to work in schools and districts with foresight. Some are sitting in classrooms – for they haven’t yet completed their education in teacher preparation.
My hope for those future teachers is that they work in districts where the administrators appreciate collaboration and digital literacy, critical thinking and creative problem solving. Where administration provides opportunities for positive feedback, support, and growth. Our only hope is to “replenish” our retiring excellent teachers with new ones . . . and keep them.