Taking it Down a Notch

I’ve been back at school for about six weeks now and have, I must confess, been starting to question some of my previously held beliefs about my own teaching. Whether that’s been down to pressure of workload, when the things which don’t go as well as expected take a more prominent role in the the end of day discussion over wine choice, or simply that I ain’t as good as I thought I was, I’m not sure. Things have been getting me down, folks.

So, over this holiday weekend, I’ve been sitting crouched over my PC tapping away at some thoughts. The Blog is supposed to be a place for reflection, right? I’ve about  three posts waiting to be completed; they will be one day. For this one, however, I’ve stolen the words of another. Having read Todd Whitaker’s ‘What Great Teachers Do Differently’ I went through what he states are the fourteen things that matter most. These are the things he describes so eloquently in the book, of course, but it is a list which has had a powerful effect on me.

Here they are. with Todd’s permission, of course.

           14 things that matter most

  1. Great teachers never forget that it is people, not programs, that determine the quality of a school.
  2. Great teachers establish clear expectations at the start of the year and follow them consistently as the year progresses.
  3. When a student misbehaves, great teachers have one goal: to keep that behaviour from happening again.
  4. Great teachers have high expectations for students but even higher expectations for themselves.
  5. Great teachers know who is the variable in the classroom. They are. Good teachers consistently strive to improve, and they focus on something they can control – their own performance.
  6. Great teachers create a positive atmosphere in their classrooms and schools. They treat every person wither expect. In particular, they understand the power of praise.
  7. Great teachers consistently filter out the negatives that don’t matter and share a positive attitude.
  8. Great teachers work hard to keep their relationships in good repair – to avoid personal hurt and to repair any possible damage.
  9. Great teachers have the ability to ignore trivial disturbances and the ability to respond to inappropriate behaviour without escalating the situation.
  10. Great teachers have a plan and purpose for everything they do. If things don’t work out the way they had envisioned, they reflect on what they could have done differently and adjust their plans accordingly.
  11. Before making any decision or attempting to bring about any change, great teachers ask themselves one central question: What will the best people think?
  12. Great teachers continually ask themselves who is most comfortable and who is least comfortable with each decision they make. They treat everyone as if they were good.
  13. Great teachers keep standardised testing in perspective; they centre on the real issue of student learning.
  14. Great teachers care about their students. They understand that behaviour and beliefs are tied to emotion, and they understand the power of emotion to jump-start change.

So, there you have them. It is very easy to forget what makes us good at what we do. But we get up and do it every day and we love it. So we are good, very good.

I’ve been soul-searching this weekend and, I think, I feel a bit better about my teaching. I’m certainly moving in the right direction. It would be good to have a wee discussion about some of these. Any thoughts?

7 thoughts on “Taking it Down a Notch

  1. Cheers Fearghal,
    I may well cringe at the tone of this post tomorrow but it kind of sums up the last week or two for me. Hopefully things turning a corner now. It’s a great list from a great book. I do feel that reading things like this makes me feel a little better about the bad days we all occasionally have. Hope all’s well with you,
    Kenny

  2. My favourite one: the teacher is the biggest variable. There’s argument to be had even with that (demographics/ child context can overpower the most gifted of teachers at times) but it’s a powerful reminder of the importance we have in our small ways. Good blog, cheers.

  3. Hanks for the comment,Tom
    Yes, I liked that one too but it is, I think, number one which resonates with me. At a time when glossy brochurse pass as policy, we can forget that, as you say, the teacher is the most important part of the equation. Afl, collaboarative learning, even our own. Curriculum for Excellence, will mean nothing without strong teachers.

  4. Sorry to hear you’re feeling ground down already, but what a great way to keep your pecker up! I like No. 7 – I try to reamin relentless optimistic in the face of bufoonery, much to the irritation of some more cynical colleagues. You’re one of the good ‘uns K.

  5. Thanks David,
    Your kind words are always appreciated. I spent time on all of these and all had something to say. I think in the every day chaos of our day we forget exactly how complicated teaching as and how good we are at it.

  6. Pingback: The Learning Spy - Reasons to be cheerful

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