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Monday, July 9, 2018

What Kind of Teacher Are You: Excellent or Mediocre?

Being a teacher is sometimes a lot like being a parent:  If you're doing it right, you will question whether you're making the right choices.  So if you've ever found yourself wondering if you're just a mediocre teacher, then this is the post for you.

What Kind of Teacher Are You:  Excellent or Mediocre?

First, let me tell you what DOESN'T make an excellent teacher:

Comparing yourself to other teachers

We all know that some people are truly gifted, natural teachers.  They are creative, patient, and cheerful. That being said, if you are struggling in one or more of these areas, it does NOT mean that you are sub-par.  It means that you are human.  The very fact that you are reflecting on your effectiveness and methodology means that you are a GREAT teacher.  Comparing yourself to others never works out well.  All it achieves is to make you feel inferior, which will absolutely not do you any favors as a teacher or a person in general.

Assuming that being an expert in your curriculum content is the most important thing

It really depends on who you ask on this one.  Administrators and School Board members may tell you that not having every last word of your curriculum memorized and your lesson plans in perfect order each day point towards a sub-par teacher.  If you ask any seasoned teacher, however, they will tell you that is one, tiny part of what makes a great teacher.  This is especially true if you are a newer teacher.  You will work out the fine details of curriculum and lesson-planning as you gain teaching experience.  Seriously, don't sweat this one.  We don't teach content, we teach children.

Assuming that just because you have a bad day (or days) that you aren't meant to be a teacher

We all have those days when things just don't go right from the time we wake up until our head hits the pillow at night.  As a teacher, many of the things that happen are not totally within our control.  Things like interruptions to our curriculum, emergencies, and illnesses can turn an already unpredictable day into a downright miserable one sometimes.  What IS within our control is how we deal with it.  There will be great days and terrible days.  On the terrible ones, you will have to ask yourself what you will need to do to get your "happy" back. Specialty coffee?  Dinner with a friend?  Exercise?  Whatever puts a smile on your face and helps you get back to business is exactly what you'll need to on those days.

Now, let's talk about the RIGHT ways to tell that you are a first-rate teacher:

Do you genuinely care about your students and do you let them know how much you care?

If the answer is yes, then you are not just a good teacher you are an amazing teacher.  Students will never be their best selves in our classroom until they know that they matter to us.  This is just as true for high-schoolers as it is for Kindergarteners.

Do previous students every stop by your room or let you know how much you mean to them?

If even ONE student has done this then you need to understand that you have reached a child on a truly unique level.  That is a gift that not all people possess.  Never underestimate this gift.

Do you regularly make time in your schedule for self care?

This is a sign that you are making sure that your energy level and happiness are at full capacity.  When you are happy, you are able to give that back to your students.  Taking care of yourself is a sign of a healthy and superior teacher.  I wrote about how you can practice self-care in just five minutes in this post.

Do you have at least one person in your building in whom you trust for advice, guidance, and a shoulder to cry on?

Teaching is not a profession in which people can be lone wolves.  We need other teachers who will support us on the bad days and give us guidance when we are not making the best decisions.  They share great ideas with us and encourage us to go to professional development opportunities that keep us on top of our game.

What are some things that separate the excellent teachers from the mediocre in your mind?  I'd love to hear about what you'd add to this list!

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