I found this paper I wrote from 3 years ago in college at APU and it was such an encouragement to see that I have had the ability to put these beliefs into practice through my student teaching this past year. While some things might end up looking a little different in the actual classroom, I do and plan to implement this philosophy for years to come.
Henry Adams was once quoted saying, “A teacher affects eternity: he can never tell where his influence stops.” I believe teaching means far more than educating a student; it means encouraging, supporting, challenging, instilling confidence in, and loving each student as you educate them. As a future educator, I want nothing more than to be an effective, encouraging, and building teacher who instills life into her students. My goal as a future teacher is to live the ‘silent sermon’ in my workplace, encouraging students to serve and treat others as they do themselves, challenging them to the point of large intellectual growth, and showing my students their potential for learning and the benefits of education. Overall, I want to be the best teacher I can be, as God has called me to a life of higher standards. He has gifted me to educate others and I want nothing more than to honor him with all aspects of my life, even my future career.
A huge part of being an effective teacher is having a set of ‘best practices’ that are demonstrated daily, encouraging the students to be the best they can be. I believe there are a few key beliefs every teacher needs in order to be effective. First, it is crucial to have “high expectations of student achievement” (Rohrer, 2008). The students need to know that they are expected to be the best student and person they can be, in any and every circumstance. Not only is it important for me to demonstrate this for myself in the classroom, but it is also crucial that I encourage students through the times they don’t expect this of themselves. Each student needs to know they are capable of passing with more than an average grade; every student can exceed their own expectations. This might require more study time, tutor time, or reading time, but it is critical that I promote the importance of striving to do their very best. Having high expectations will create an environment of healthy competition as well as demonstrate the importance of striving to do your best in all aspects of life, not just education.
The second key belief in educating students is a “supportive, cooperative learning atmosphere” (Rohrer, 2008). After reading the Essential 55 by Ron Clark, I believe that my classroom should operate just like a family. Starting on the first day of school, I believe each student needs to know the expectations of how to treat each other in the classroom, and demonstrating the idea that we are a family sets the bar very high. As a family, my classroom will treat each other with respect, put others above themselves, listen effectively to each and every student, as well as respond with encouraging words to each other on a daily basis. This not only prepares the students for a warm, effective learning environment, but it trains the students to treat everyone they come in contact with that way. When a teacher creates a learning environment that is supportive and cooperative, it allows room for mistakes while challenging the students to do their very best.
Third, it is critical that the teacher has a “manifest belief that their subject is important” (Rohrer, 2008). If I am not excited about what I am teaching to these students, there is no way I will get an excited response for learning from them. It is essential that I see the importance of the material, realizing that every aspect of each subject is preparing these students for the future. Especially through teaching young children, it is crucial that I teach each subject in an exciting manner because if I write it off in a first grade classroom, they are likely to write it off for the rest of their school years. It is not fair to a student to write off certain aspects of a lesson because you do not care for it or see the importance in it when they could be especially gifted in that area. An effective teacher demonstrates the beauty and excitement in each subject, realizing that each student looks forward to a different subject of the school day, and would want to do nothing to ruin or take away that excitement.
Next, an effective teacher is willing to “tolerate ambiguity” (Hassett, 2006). I once had a professor who explained beautifully, “Assume the student knows nothing, but can learn anything.” This goes hand in hand with ambiguity because as an effective teacher, it is vital that we realize students will not know everything right from the start and that it is our job to present the material in a way that allows the students to learn new things. Students will make mistakes and they will struggle with grasping concepts and understanding language, etc. When you present the information in a way that allows each student to grasp the concept, you are able to progressively move forward with all students on a similar level. It is inevitable, however, to have every student at the same learning level, but it is the teachers’ job to present either more challenging information, or more one on one time with students who need extra help.
Lastly, a teacher needs to believe that “not knowing” is okay (Hassett, 2006). An effective teacher, in my opinion does not intimidate their classroom with the feeling of superiority. An effective teacher has an authoritative demeanor, but never puts themselves above the students. A classroom should be a place where mistakes are beneficial because the outcome is an environment of growth and progress. The teacher should also make mistakes and an effective teacher will openly admit when they are wrong and apologize specifically to students who are affected by their mistakes. An environment where students are not under pressure to get every answer right allows them to make mistakes, make progress in return, and learn to grow in all circumstances, good or bad.
Albert Schweitzer once said, “Ethics, too, are nothing but reverence for life. This is what gives me the fundamental principle of morality, namely, that good consists in maintaining, promoting, and enhancing life, and that destroying, injuring, and limiting life are evil.” An effective teacher is an ethical teacher without a doubt. Similarly, a Christian teacher is an ethical teacher. For me personally, a true Christian teacher is held to very high standards and should take their job very seriously. In the public school specifically, Christians have great influence over their students. I want to see my job as a challenge everyday to represent the love, grace, and joy of Christ in all I do. I want to be a teacher who sticks out in a crowd, in front of my students as well as my peers, and who makes ethical decisions based on my own convictions from my relationship with God. This to me is an effective teacher. Ethical teachers in the same way, treat every student equally, challenge each student fairly, listen to both sides of the story in all situations, and are unbiased with every student. An ethical teacher is one who communicates well with the parents, listens to parents, teaches to the best of their ability in all circumstances, is honest with grades and paperwork, as well as lives a life outside of school that is worthy of recognition. As a future educator, I believe that my life outside the classroom should incorporate the same beliefs that I possess in the classroom and should be a life that I would be proud to let anyone watch. When a teacher lives an ethical life, especially claiming to be a Christ-follower, their life should be one that is admirable, humble, honest, and authentic to whom they claim to be in the classroom. When all of these factors match up, I believe there is no way for a teacher not to be effective. An effective teacher is one who is ethical and consistent in their daily lives, especially in their walk with God.
Moreover, an effective, ethical teacher has a developed classroom theory as well as many classroom management strategies for running a classroom. Franklin D. Roosevelt was once quoted saying, “If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships- the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace.” Classroom management not only allows a classroom to functionally work together, but it creates an environment of learning and development. The biggest disservice you can give to a student is a hectic classroom environment where they are unable to get work done. The classroom definitely has a time for fun and excitement, but if it cannot be first and foremost a work environment, it will not be manageable for you as a teacher. As a result, students will naturally feel anxious and consequently work in a less effective manner.
Classroom management is a great way to periodically remind the students of your expectations, promote academic achievement and confidence, as well as keep the students on task throughout the day. My host teacher, Mrs. Varellas at Paramount Elementary School, was an excellent demonstrator of classroom management. She not only gives out tickets to students who behave well throughout the day, she also does table points that encourage the students to work well with their peers. Mrs. Varellas also has a very organized, easy way of running her classroom. She has a picture of every student in her room posted on the main wall of the class with pins that make transferring papers and displaying a students’ work very easy to do. Classroom organization for her is, “Crucial to staying sane and getting the students work up for parents to see.” Other great ideas that I have seen demonstrated in the classroom is a clipboard with each students name written on an index card. It allows the teacher to quickly and easily write down information about students’ behavior, progress, etc. There are hundreds of different classroom management strategies, and as an effective teacher, they are crucial for the students and myself.
How might a new teacher be an effective teacher, you might ask? A huge part of learning as a first year teacher is that teaching by the book might not be the most effective. Most students, especially certain ages, learn better by hands on and a more practical approach than the teacher’s manual. First year teachers have to be comfortable teaching outside the box and adjusting to the needs of the students, even if it seems abnormal (Nemser, 2003). An effective first year teacher will not worry as much about their weekly visits by the principal or critiques by their mentor as they will the learning advancement of their students. An effective teacher will do whatever it takes to see their students growing and learning, and when that happens, all the other worries fall into place. Teachers also need to realize that growth and adaptation to a new school and classroom takes time and patience. With time and confidence, as well as challenges, a first year teacher can be a very effective teacher if they are willing to go through the good and the bad.
Lastly, I believe it is imperative for a teacher to be aware of his or her strengths in order to confirm their passion for teaching, especially the specific grade they should teach. My strongest personal strengths, which are belief, relator, and communication have helped me to understand myself more intimately. Taking the Strengths Finder test helped me feel more comfortable with the way God made me and confirmed the calling on my life to be a teacher. An effective teacher must understand their strengths as well as the consequences to those strengths when used inappropriately. These strengths are very helpful in understanding why we act the way we do as well as how we can effectively run a classroom. I personally believe that every teacher should be required to take a strengths test before teaching, preferably in college before they pursue a major. It is helpful to their own personal development as well as how they will help in the development of their students.
All in all, an effective teacher is consistent in all areas of their life. An effective teacher has practices that help them in their interactions with other students, is an ethical and faithful teacher, and has a clear understanding of how to run a classroom efficiently. As a future educator, I know that I will face my struggles and challenges but I also have so many moments to look forward to. My favorite part of education is that if you are able to be a successful, effective teacher, you have successfully trained your students for life, not just the growth of their intellect. God has called me to impact the lives of little children in the classroom and as an effective teacher, I plan to take that very seriously.