Skills are Key.
“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school” (Albert Einstein). Education is not about having students memorize facts. It is not all about the content that is presented. But rather it is about the skills that are attained to engage with content, to make meaning of facts. Content is in abundance, whereas skills are hard-acquired. It is the skills that remain long after the details of a book or activity are forgotten. I believe every teacher should begin their lesson planning process by asking themselves: “what will my students be able to do by the end of this lesson?” They should choose the Common Core State Standards they would like their students to exercise. And only from there should they incorporate the subject matter to be used to aid in the exercise.
In a world where the majority of the jobs of the near future haven’t even been invented yet, it is imperative that students learn the skills to tackle whatever may lie ahead. We must prepare students for the unknown not by filling their brains with data they can look up on Google at any time, but by educating them on the strategies and methods to utilize knowledge.
Empathy is Golden.
However, it is not enough to teach rote methods either. I believe that students must engage in real-world application of these methods by collaborating and working together. To do this students must practice their social and emotional capabilities. As Aristotle once said: “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” To be successful in life students must practice genuine respect, care, understanding, self-control, perseverance and a positive attitude. Like all skills, these fundamental human attributes can take many years to master. Because of this, social and emotional skills should be practiced on a daily basis and incorporated into every facet of learning. I believe it is essential for the teacher to be a supreme example of these skills and to display empathy at all times.
Motivation is Essential.
Not all students are naturally inspired to learn. I believe the best way to motivate students to learn is to provide them with engaging work. If they find the material interesting or the skills useful, they will want to learn. The most effective way to do this is by creating an interactive classroom environment which supports ample opportunities for dialogue. I am a proponent of incorporating speaking and listening activities such as turn and talk, think-pair-share, and elbow partner exchanges into my lessons. When students orally converse they feel a responsibility to their peers to uphold a certain level of dignity which helps them to become invested in a topic. Through dialogue students are forced to take ownership of their ideas and think deeply about their responses to others. There is no better way to motivate students than to hold them accountable to their peers. The classroom is a community which cannot function without the participation of all of its constituents. A healthy classroom culture requires cooperation and drives motivation.
Choice is Necessary.
In addition to collaboration, I believe it is important to allow students the freedom of choice. The freedom to choose the books they want to read, the platforms they would like to use and the students they would like to work with. Students should be encouraged to explore new software, apps, media outlets, writing styles, literature genres, and modes of expression. While it is unrealistic to permit this for every assignment, I believe choice should be allowed frequently.
Structure is Vital.
I believe it is important to set the tone from the very first day of class. Establishing rules and regulations from the outset fosters a strong classroom environment. But these rules should not be constructed solely by the teacher. These rules should be created by the students with the guidance of the teacher. My personal approach is to introduce students to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. After analyzing and discussing the text, use it as a basis to create a Universal Declaration of Classroom Rights. These rules will be written on a large poster and hung in a visible spot in the classroom for the entirety of the year.
Reteaching is Requisite.
Reteaching assignments are a necessary part of every classroom. Assessments often reveal trends in student misunderstandings. Collecting data to analyze these trends and creating an action plan to correct the misconceptions is crucial for student success. A good teacher will frequently check for areas where students struggle and help to rectify the inaccuracies. I believe teachers should be conducting formative assessments both informally and formally on a daily basis to track student progress and ensure comprehension of the material.
Differentiation is Indispensable.
Making modifications and adjustments, not just for EL and special needs students, but for all students in the classroom is paramount for intellectual development. A good teacher will adapt and change assignments to meet their students’ needs on a regular basis.
Homework is Optional.
I do not believe in bogging students down with homework. I assign homework on occasion when students have been given ample time to complete an assignment in class, but the work remains unfinished. In these circumstances students will be asked to complete it at home.
Late Work is Acceptable.
I believe in accepting late work. In the adult world not all people submit work on time and it is still accepted. So why should we punish students for doing the same? Turning away work and giving a student a zero does not benefit anyone. In fact, it can be extremely discouraging for a student and may stifle the student’s ambition to complete work in the future.
A Warm and Welcoming Environment is Integral.
Above all else I believe it essential for teachers to be empathetic, caring, understanding and patient. It is a teacher’s duty to ignite inspiration, encourage innovation and impress the ideals of a world full of opportunities upon their students.