I’ve been seeing a few things around Twitter recently, and especially since TMC is less than a month away (!!), that made me feel like we may need this gentle reminder:
We as teachers are all trying, to the best of our ability, to have students reach the best of their ability.
Like students, teachers have different backgrounds, knowledge, experience, comfort levels, and specialties; as well as different student populations and school climates. Almost every teacher I work with is giving all that they have to give into being a good teacher, but what they have to give may vary. Some teachers are there early every morning to tutor, but that doesn’t mean those who don’t tutor in the morning are any less dedicated. I can stay at school later than others because I don’t have kids to pick up, but I’m also not at the school until 9 coaching sports. I tried having my class in groups this year, some teachers also had groups, some teachers had groups sometimes, and some teachers didn’t have groups at all.
Just because something works for you doesn’t mean it works for someone else. The reverse of this is something that I feel we lose sight of in the MTBoS:
Just because something won’t work for you doesn’t mean it doesn‘t work for someone else.
Imagine you’re a teacher who has been teaching for a few years, mostly by following the issued textbook. You spend quite a bit of time on perfecting your lectures and you mostly follow the same routine of “I do, We do, You do” that you were taught in education school. Your students perform reasonably well in your class, but you’re usually not their “favorite” teacher. You have made some students like math more (and probably a few like it less). You’re putting in your best effort, but looking for ways to improve, so you join Twitter. Within the next couple of weeks, you see comments like these:
“I can’t believe they actually lectured for the entire day.”
“If you don’t have solid relationships with all your students, you can’t be an effective teacher.”
“This teacher isn’t sharing her stuff”
“This teacher is sharing her stuff, but it’s on Teachers Pay Teachers.”
“Look at this stupid textbook problem, can you believe anyone would assign it?”
“_______ is the wrong way to teach ______.”
“Your role is not to tell them, but have them discover.”
“Don’t give hints.”
“Don’t give homework.”
“Don’t give answers.”
“Don’t give notes.”
“You can give notes, as long as they are on pretty paper.”
“Don’t watch Khan Academy!”
“Students shouldn’t trust their teacher to be the math expert.”
Would you want to come back to twitter? Would you want to join in this conversation? Would you think you even had anything to contribute to the conversation? Would you want to go back to school the next day, feeling that you’re doing everything wrong?
Confession: I was and am that teacher. Even when I was just reading blogs, I had to unsubscribe to a few of the “top” ones because they just made me feel like I was doing irreparable harm to my students. I’m so glad I took a chance on going to TMC14, because most of the people there inspired me to be better instead of shaming me about where I am. I would also say about 95% of Twitter also inspires and I’m trying to do better at culling out those who don’t inspire me (which doesn’t mean they can’t inspire you).
Confession II: I almost didn’t want to share my files that I’ve been posting this summer because then the ugly rumor that I lecture a lot and “mama bird” my students would be proven true. But then I thought, “You know what? A lot of students love my NoteTakerMakers and I’ve had success with them so maybe someone else will, too, or maybe they’ll take them and make something better.” I’m trying my best. This is what has worked for me before and it is what I have to give.
Confession III: I’m not saying I’ve never made the sort of statements that I’ve listed above. Or thought about another teacher, “She doesn’t even read blogs!” But if I had to list the top five teachers that I’ve worked with in person, less than half are or were active on the Internet. And even though I’ve been trained like Pavlov’s dogs to cringe when I hear “Khan Academy,” I still recommend it to my students who are struggling. Because, yes, even Khan Academy is trying to help students in the best way they know how.
Basically this is 1,000 words to remind you:
- Assume every teacher has the best of intentions. Yes, just like with our students, there are some that perform better than others, but I doubt there are many teachers that wake up and think, “I would like to make my kids really hate math today.” That is not to say we don’t all have room to improve, but…
- You can only do what you can do. If you see a good idea that may be out of your comfort zone, try it out. If it doesn’t work, see if you can change it to make it better or if it’s just not for you at this time. If you see someone say that what you are currently doing is “bad,” read it and reflect. Maybe there is something you need to change, but maybe there isn’t.
Think of improving your classroom like getting in shape. Sure, you could do a crash diet of Three Acts and ban all sugary worksheets forever, but if that’s not comfortable to you, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Try little modifications until you’re strong enough to try the big stuff (but not everyone has to run a marathon to be in shape). What we are doing is important, but let’s remind ourselves it’s not life or death. If you’ve been up all night with a sick kid and have your kids do a practice worksheet in class the next day, the world will still continue to spin.
- You are all inspiring teachers. Let’s build on that by putting positivity out there (“This is something awesome that worked for me”) instead of negativity (“Doing this instead of that is bad!”). (This is not to say you shouldn’t let us know when something doesn’t work for you.) Think about how you can inspire teachers to move out of their comfort zone without putting them in the panic zone (or the defensive zone).
- Mold your Twitter and blog feed into something inspiring for you. If every time you read a tweet from ____, you roll your eyes, feel like a horrible teacher, or get defensive, stop following that person. If your eyes glaze over every time you see another post from ____ in your feed, unsubscribe. (That’s not to say you should only follow people that teach exactly like you do.)
And if you ever need a little more inspiration in your day, Coach needs to tell you something:
(link here if embed doesn’t work) Now go be the awesome teacher that you are.