Welcome Back to School, Teachers!
Welcome back to a new school year! For some of you it probably feels like you never left. Contrary to popular belief, the summer of a teacher is not all Diet Cokes and bonbons by the pool, it is often spent developing curriculum, attending professional development, moving rooms, teaching summer school and the list goes on.
As you approach the new year, think about these questions for a minute:
1. Am I in the right room?
2. Where am I supposed to sit?
3. What are the rules in this classroom?
4. What will I be doing this year?
5. How will I be graded?
6. Who is the teacher as a person?
7. Will you (the teacher) treat me as a human being?
From: Harry Wong's Seven Things (7 items ALL students want to know on the 1st day)
That is how many of our students feel on the first day of class. But guess what? Adult learners are not any different! When heading into a professional development session, or starting a graduate class, or even starting a position in a new school, we’ve all had those same thoughts. The start of a new school year brings all of those thoughts and feelings and many more. But the start of a new school year of learning for students should also give us, as educators, pause to think about our own continued learning.
If we believe the primary goal of teaching is student learning, and if we know that the number one influence on student achievement is the classroom teacher, then our number one priority should be to become the most effective teachers we can be.
“You must learn, you can learn, you will learn. The fact that you have not yet learned means I have not yet found the way to explain the subject so simply, so clearly and so exactly that it is impossible for you not to understand. But I will find the way, I will not quit on you.” -- Author Unknown
It is up to each of us to find a way to explain our subject. We cannot quit! That is why continued education and professional growth is so important. Teaching is more than a pre-planned curriculum. We need to find ways to make learning applicable and relevant to our students’ lives. The focus of education is the interaction between teachers and students within the curriculum. Curriculum is something that is shared with students, not something that is done to them. The same can be said about our own professional learning journeys – and I’m hopeful you can find opportunities where that learning is something that is shared WITH you, and not done TO you.
As educators we must be willing to adapt our teaching practices to meet the needs of our students to maximize their learning.
“If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” -- John Dewey
“If it is true that the best thing students can learn in school is how to learn, then isn’t the best thing that a school (or teacher) can learn from students how to change?” -- Anonymous
Participating in yearly continuing education and networking with our colleagues are vital acts for our profession, now more than ever, and is how we will find creative and innovative ways to handle the ever-increasing expectations of educators in our schools today. Don’t be afraid to change – seek opportunities for growth. I encourage you to be a part of a learning community that asks these questions – What are the essential outcomes that we expect students to learn? What assessment will we use to determine if the students have learned? How will we intervene when students do not learn or learn more than anticipated? Then take the steps to be able to answer those questions – your students are depending on it!
Blessings on your upcoming school year! May it be a great year of learning for you and your students.
Program Director for M.Ed. in Special Education