Do You Want to be a Great Teacher?

It’s that time of year when reports are due and teachers are busy finishing the testing of  their students. They are exhausted! I have a mantra that I like to say : ‘every day is a new day’. I really like that one because it works especially well when you have had a very bad day at school.  It was then that a timely article came to my inbox from D. Trinidad Hunt, and I thought I would share it at our next Literacy PLT. I’m also pasting it here for you. Have a look.

Jim Collins in his now classic book From Good to Great said the hardest leap to make is the leap from good to great. Collins was talking about making the leap as an organization. Yet the same thing can be applied to leadership in schools and in the classroom.

The longest mile seems to be the stretch from being good at what we do to becoming great at what we do. There is a tendency to accept good as ‘good enough’. But this will never make you a great teacher and great teachers are made not born. There is a choice involved and practice required.

The first step in this journey necessitates becoming aware of this tendency to accept good as ‘good enough’. When you feel you are a good teacher, reflect for a moment… has good become good enough? Are you settling for less than your personal professional best?

If you became a teacher, as I did, because of the love of children and a passion for learning, then you won’t settle for good. But how do you recognize the plateau of rest and status quo Vs reflection and preparation (to move to higher heights).

I can remember the moment that I confronted this place in my own life. I had taught for twenty years. I was tired of it. I wanted to quit. In truth, I had hit the wall! And the wall was the barrier between being a good teacher and moving up to the level of great.

There was another mountain peak before me and I knew that it would require all of my resilience, my grit and my commitment. It would require a critical eye, and authentic self-assessment. I would have to be brutally honest with myself about my inner feelings as well as my outer actions.

In fact, I would have to change and from my perspective at that time change took work! The stages I went through look like this:

Denial: In my mind I didn’t need to improve. I wanted to quit. It all looked too hard for me and I justified these feelings by saying it was time to change profession. I explained it as burn out. I denied that what might be up here was a breakthrough. If I admitted it, I might have to embrace the change and I was not ready to do that!

Acceptance: This is not the acceptance of a need to change. This was the beginning of a realization and an acceptance that something was going on with me. I started to become aware that something was trying to break through into consciousness. I sensed that there was a deeper message here. I began to feel that I needed to listen to it.

Willingness: Then came the stage of willingness. I was now willing to make a change. I was in the middle of a full teaching schedule and I wasn’t willing to leave all the people I was teaching in the lurch. So maybe, I thought, I better let go of my resistance and go with the flow, at least for the moment!

Decision: So I made a decision to put one foot in front of the other and really give it my all for the next six weeks.

Action: Having made this decision, I went to work. I taught with all my heart and at the end of the day I assessed my score on a metaphorical score card made of the questions below. I practiced my craft and I assessed my results with an intention to improve daily.

After six months I was renewed with the love of the game of teaching and I was getting better at it every single day. That’s when I realized that there is no arrival. Every day is a new day. Every mountain top reveals a view of another and even higher mountain behind it.

So here are a few mantras that have helped me continue my passage from good to great:

  • Put one foot in front of the other.
  • As I make a positive choice, that choice begins to remake me!
  • Remember to remember why I do what I do!
  • Gratitude is my attitude of choice!

Along with the mantras, here are a few questions that help me keep expanding and growing daily.  I invite you to ask these questions of yourself every day for 30 days. I guarantee that if you are honest and work at it, they will change your life.

  1. What have I done today that demonstrates being a true and great professional in my field?
  2. What have I done inadvertently that might demonstrate something different from this?
  3. What do I need to do differently tomorrow to more fully express my love for those I serve and my passion for my profession?
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2 responses to “Do You Want to be a Great Teacher?

  1. Very helpful. Reflection is certainly vital to improvement. Thanks!

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