~Carl W. Buechner
My little place on the web usually has about 40 readers, but yesterday's blog is up to 400 readers so far. Interesting. We sometimes discount feelings and passion, but a perusal through history will find feelings and passion have sustained great warriors and stoic leaders to press forward even in the face of terror. What pulls at our beliefs and our hearts often motivates us. We crave security, happiness, and acceptance. We tend to avoid fear, pure meanness, and isolation. Maybe the blog spoke to your feelings.
Great teachers have this way about them of making us all feel we are loved or we can be more than we dreamed we could be. Our memorable teachers are those who made us love ourselves almost as much as they loved us. Effective teachers see us through eyes that shine with possibility and we want to grasp it and run.
Covington (1998) suggests expert teachers understand self-worth theory and use the knowledge to maintain student engagement in instruction. People are naturally inclined to behave in ways that enhance their feelings of personal value and worth. If anything threatens these perceptions, the resultant face-saving behavior may manifest itself in many unique ways. A proactive and supportive classroom culture is obvious from the focus on learning and the willingness of students to take intellectual risks.
I wrote about Ms. Brown yesterday and I can tell you of all her fine qualities the relationship she has with children is her most powerful asset. For example, she greets each child at the door by saying things like, "I am so happy to see you today." "I can't wait to see what great things you will do today." She attends their ballgames and writes them little notes of encouragement. She really cares about the students. This trait is found in all of the wonderful teachers I have ever know. Some are boisterous and loud. Some are soft spoken and calm. All really love children and share that love through high expectations and kind words.
I predict most of people can still remember the feeling your favorite teacher gave you. I have had so many wonderful teachers, but I remember Ms. Donahue at Anson Jones School in Bryan, Texas. She was a very stern and very traditional math teachers. She worked us so hard, but would read to us the last five minutes of class if we worked especially hard. I was a good student, but math did not come instantly easy like my other subjects, so I thought I was dumb. Ms. Donahue kept me after class one day and said to me, "Amanda, you are a very smart young lady. I suspect from talking to your other teachers that everything is really easy for you. So, when you struggle a little in here, you think you aren't too smart. Well, let me tell you something, you are smart, however, math must be mastered. You will never be devoured by it, if you master it." I did. She encouraged my mistakes and my questions, because she understood the importance of a classroom being a safe place to try new things. Good and Brophy (2008) explain effective teachers create a positive learning culture by placing the focus on learning rather than right or wrong answers. Ms. Donahue had a positive learning culture.
When I became a middle school math teacher, I wanted to make kids feel what I had felt in Ms. Donahue's class, a sense of possibility and a sense of power. My teaching style was completely different as I am kind of loud and silly at times, but I loved to hear students question and think. My notes from students encouraged me to keep believing anything was possible.
As the powers that be begin to seek ways to recognize teachers through the use of test scores and evaluations, remember there are huge pieces of an effective classroom which cannot be quantified unless someone would like to count the notes of admiration and pure devotion teachers like Ms. Brown receive from students. While I believe teachers who bring out this type of emotion in children also have students who perform to their optimum, I hope we account for the whole child, not just the assessment scores.