Lessons Learned #1

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Instead of sharing a teacher story, I am doing something different in this post. After several months of engagement in the Chalk and Chances project, people have been asking what I have learned. My hundreds of interviews have provided a rich collection of data and have yielded clear themes and lessons. So, in this blog post, I am answering the question, Who are memorable teachers?

The teachers people remember are unique individuals. They all have different personalities, teaching styles and passions. Each has spent years developing an authentic teaching persona, which is a combination of who the teacher is as a person, teaching skills, and ways of relating to students. It is this authenticity (and even the quirks) that students love. Linda told me about a memorable math teacher, Mr. Phillips. He had a huge collection of Hawaiian shirts and wore a different one every day. His casual uniform matched the informal way he engaged in discussions with students. His students remember him sitting on the edge of his desk, asking thought provoking questions and listening carefully to their answers.

Memorable teachers also retain a youthful enthusiasm. They never forget what it is like to be a student. They relate content to students’ lives, and they are eager to learn from their students. Students remember teachers who bring a sense of fun and engagement to their work. Joel told me about Mrs. Carey, a memorable social studies teacher who ended each class by challenging students with one statement, “Tell me something I don’t know.” Students shared little known current events, sports news and popular culture trends. Through that simple practice, she connected with students and modeled the joy of staying curious.

There are countless definitions of effective teaching. I surmise that it is difficult to define, but I know it when I see it. So do students. When we are in the presence of a memorable teacher, there is a palpable energy in the classroom. We see evidence in the engagement and energy of both teacher and students. Many of us became teachers because of the magical connection we felt with one of our own teachers. They inspired us to be the teachers every student remembers.


Wishing you an endless supply of chalk and chances-
Julie

 

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