Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What Makes YOU the Best Teacher in the World?

I was visiting a school the other day to work with a group of teachers during their planning period. As the Team Leader was taking her class of second graders to Specials, she and I introduced ourselves in the hallway. One particularly astute seven-year-old took note of this interaction and as she passed me, she gave me her most rousing endorsement of the teacher. Imagine the following being said by the most earnest of faces, one with a mouth full of newly-grown adult teeth and wide eyes:
She's the best teacher in the WORLD. She's a MAGIC teacher. She used to be a CLOWN!
That's an exact quote; I loved it so much I put it in my phone so I wouldn't forget it. I mentioned it to the teacher when she got back to the room, and she smiled and kind of shrugged it off, admitting shyly that yes, she does know a few magic tricks.  And of course it made me wonder... What is it that makes kids think, "My teacher is the best teacher in the world"?

The fact that the teacher knows magic and at one point worked as a clown does give her some unique skills to use in a class (what child WOULDN'T remember and love a magic trick where the U.S. flag came out whole after a bunch of torn pieces of red, white and blue paper went into a container?). But I think the real "magic" there is the teacher sharing a part of her life with her students and allowing them to see a side of her that might not be readily apparent in normal classroom business. And any teacher, clown or not, can do that by telling a story. Find a story that you can weave into the course of whatever curricular content you're delivering today, and I will bet you that your students will get hooked in by that story, even if the content doesn't wow them at first.

Depending on the age of your students and your own yarn-spinning ability, you might tell stories that make your students say:
He goes to the GROCERY STORE!
She used to be a ROLLER SKATER!
She once walked in a PROTEST MARCH!
She went to FRANCE when she was in college!
 Not all of us are lucky enough to be able to put "clown" on our resume. And yes, you still have to teach content and document student progress and do that RtI stuff. But each of us has something in our non-teaching lives that might capture the imagination of our students in the midst of all those other classroom responsibilities. You never know what it will be about your life that makes students think you're the best teacher in the world. Find that teachable moment. Stop and tell your students a story about something that you have done, or how you felt about it, or what means something to you. And take the time to listen to your students; learn what means something to them. These kinds of exchanges will have a powerful effect on your classroom climate, and you never know how your stories might cause your students to wonder.


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