This post originally appeared on the blog Stephanie’s History Store.
So frequently in education you hear about what students need to learn, what and how teachers should be teaching, which standards need to be met and when, how learning should be assessed, etc. However, every year I find myself learning FROM my kids. I was pretty sure I wasn’t the only one who could say that, so I reached out to some teacher friends and they are here today in this “what I learned from my students” post.
1. Students make sure I learn about clothing and music trends, and which rappers and TV shows to watch.
2. I have learned what it really means to live in poverty, and gained an appreciation for the drive, ambition, and pride that some students have, against all odds.
3. I think the biggest thing that I have learned is how important positive feedback and recognition is. Students will work harder in your class if they feel successful. How can you make students feel successful? Compliment them on the skills that you want them to continue to utilize. Reinforce the behavior that you want them to do and when they are doing well. Praise them for using those skills and behaviors. Its a win-win: they feel successful and are likely to continue or increase those behaviors.
From Ellen Weber:
4. They show me how play opens doors beyond boredom and into learning adventures. When I follow their lead, play leapfrogs us all over stressors that default us back to boring routines otherwise.
5. I’ve learned through teen and young adult learners how play nurtures curiosity and fuels well being much the way Einstein rode the curve of the arc in his imagination. Like play led Einstein to the theory of relativity, my students follow ideas with a sense of wonder when fun finds its way in. Whenever I pay attention to their seemingly silly banter, I’ve seen play favor risk chemicals that help us all to sidestep problems on the way to explore new possibilities – all through fun and adventure.
6. I learned that I have the gift to love other people’s children. I don’t have children of my own but I truly feel like my students are my kids. I worry about them, pray for them, advise them, get excited for them, etc. They may be “mine” for a year but they are forever in my heart. You don’t have to give birth to be a “mom” and I feel like I am a mother to so many.
7. Just because I am the adult in the room, doesn’t mean that I have experienced more than the students have. Students deal with a lot more issues and adult problems than they should. I honestly didn’t realize how many students dealt with such extreme issues until I started teaching. I have had so many students either in foster care, kicked out of their home, or having other serious adult problems that no teenager should have to deal with. Many of these students have dealt with issues that I have never even imagined dealing with.
8. I teach students, not history. Yes, I teach history and government but my first priority is my students. I try to take moments when I can to teach them “life lessons” and prepare them for the world. Sometimes it means lecturing a class about the significance of being safe before prom or about how to handle a difficult situation with another student/teacher/administrator or even about how to be sweet to Mom and Dad because they are having trouble with the idea of their baby graduating high school. But my first priority is to teach students. They may not remember the content I taught them but I hope they remember the “life lessons” that I have tried to instill.
And from myself, Stephanie’s History Store:
9. The very first lesson I distinctly remember learning from my kids is that there’s a time and a place to be considerably more strict than I thought I could be, and that it’s okay to have different degrees of strictness in various aspects of the classroom. My very first semester in the classroom, I was entirely too forgiving of late work. I accepted it no matter what (though the later it was, the more points I took off). However, in my end of year feedback form, more than one student commented that I could, and should, be stricter with my late work policy. That hit me hard. I realized that just as I have high expectations for my students, they have high expectations of me too.
10. I’ve also learned (a bit slower than I should have), that students can’t read your mind. Especially in the first few weeks with each new group of kids, you have to be clear and direct. I learned pretty quickly that I can’t assume students understand my abbreviations (such as using ppl for people), or that they know I expect them to write in complete sentences. So in addition to going over classroom rules and expectation type things at the start of the year, I give them a “cheat sheet” as to what various abbreviations mean that they’ll encounter throughout the year (such as N Am for Native Americans, AJ for Andrew Jackson) and a list of frequently used proofreading marks that they might see from me on their research papers.
I really think to be a great/effective teacher, you have to also be a constant and willing learner. You have to be willing to learn more about your content area and new and emerging technologies, you have to become familiar with new trends in education (regardless of how you might feel about them), develop and practice new teaching strategies, and as the teachers above related, you have to be open to learning from your students. What have you learned from your students?
In the last five years, Stephanie has taught high school history in Illinois and California, and this year will teach middle school geography and history in Texas. She especially loves reading about Pompeii, the Tudors, and World War 2. She enjoys the challenge of fitting in stories of people and events not included in textbooks, and making history as relevant to her students’ lives as possible. Having a pilot for a husband has meant teaching in a lot of schools in a short period of time, but it also lets her learn many lessons from many students, which is something great in the long run.