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The Curious Teacher

An aspiring teacher, exploring the dynamics of education, with the student at the center

I have, what I deem, to be good and purposeful intentions for writing this entry – to convey my thoughts and opinion on what I deem to be an obvious but possibly overlooked facet (isn’t that often the way?) of what initially separates effective teachers from those who…well, are just not as effective in the classroom.

I don’t use the label ‘good’ nor ‘bad’ – it is not my intention to place judgment. What I do believe is that when deciding to enter the teaching profession, having genuine intentions is a key ingredient to long-term success.  Intention is the gateway factor that determines and serves as the catalyst for developing potential maximum effectiveness in an educator.

I’ll be the first to admit that having genuine intentions does not necessarily make an effective teacher – it doesn’t make anyone effective at any one thing, per se.  What it does do is set a course for individuals to develop their potential for being an effective teacher. Often, true intentions stem from authentic passions or natural leanings, and if one’s craft is assessed and improved upon on a continual basis, then an effective level of performance is not out of reach.  What do I mean by ‘effective’, you might ask?

Peruse any reputable teaching blog or publication for what makes a teacher truly effective; scout out a revered teacher(s) within your own sphere; search your own mental archives for that memorable teacher(s) who painted learning in a new light, and you’re likely to come up with a core list of attributes.  While opinions may vary slightly, those characteristics that are so often embodied by successful individuals in a particular domain are no truth unseen.

From my personal observations, comings and goings, I give my top 5 characteristics for a potentially effective teacher:

  • Committed – To the individual student’s and the collective class’s understanding of the content at hand and learning progress; to adapting to a particular environment and finding the best learning resources/opportunities within for the benefit of the students’ learning and well-being; to the planning and effort that is necessary in order to plan the best possible lesson (at that moment in time)…
  • Curious – About students in the context of their role as learners in the classroom, and beyond the school walls to their family roles and places in the local community; about one’s own teaching craft and style and how that can be improved upon through continuous reflection and professional development; about available teaching resources and opportunities within the school, community, and beyond; about life as it reveals itself in all its glorious detail in every present moment…
  • Receptive – To fellow teachers’ best methods, strategies and ideas; to constructive (and perhaps not so constructive) criticism from authority figures, students, and other relevant observers; to students’ wants or needs within the context of optimal learning in and out of the classroom; to new teaching strategies, philosophies and ideas that pop up and that can be sourced from countless avenues…
  • Empathetic – To students’; students’ family members’; and fellow educators’ perspectives and life situations, as they relate to students’ learning experiences and capacities…
  • Confident – This last characteristic is certainly not static, nor an end place, but speaking from the threshold, one may have to ‘put on a show’ of this attribute in the beginning…

…Traditionally, when I wake up on days in which I’m scheduled to be in the classroom for a practicum placement,  a chemical cocktail enters my bloodstream – and I always seek it straight up, to feel the strength of these emotions, though I’m careful not to identify.  I feel excitement at the prospect of bearing witness to unassuming faces, to witnessing those unexpected and new connections made, to basking in the presence of busy bodies and minds; and I also feel rather terrified, which stems not so much from the unknown as it does from the bare-bones knowledge that as an educator, I have an incalculable responsibility to guide these children and to help facilitate the construction of new knowledge and the development of their characters as human beings.

One day, perhaps I’ll be able to look back, comfortable in my evolving craft, and feel some semblance of unwavering confidence…and maybe that day will not come in such a black and white form.  Until then, you can bet all of your socks that I have a stomach mimicking flocks of birds and an autobahn-fast heart whenever I get up in front of the classroom to teach a lesson.

Still, at the end of the day I have faith in knowing that my reasons for wanting to teach have little to do with boosting my own confidence or securing a noble place or reputable name for myself in this world.  I wake up, wanting to teach and find the most relevant and innovative ways to help illuminate and develop young minds – but knowing that when all else fails, I intend to offer every last child the unique recognition and support he or she deserves.  Whether or not this will be easy is no question – it won’t be.  But if I can develop my most effective teaching craft while doing so, then perhaps my insights might help others look more closely at their own intentions before deciding to take up the teaching profession.

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