Everyone says teaching is a noble profession. What does it really mean to be a selfless teacher? How does a teacher balance meeting state and national standards, the desire to be regarded as a good teacher by your students and colleagues, and actually teaching meaningful lessons that reach everyone in the classroom?As I mentioned in my last post, my cohort and the second-year Elementary Education MAT cohort are in a J-term diversity class together. Officially, the class is called Multicultural Dimensions and Global Awareness. One of the first things our professor said on the first night of class was that teaching wasn’t about us.
This wasn’t a huge revelation, as I never thought of myself going into the teaching profession for bright lights and glory, and I always strive to make sure my lessons meet my students’ needs. However, when she said that, I had to think about what selfless teaching really meant.
Selfless teaching means teaching to the whole bell curve, not just the middle. It’s easy to teach to the students who you know will get it and move on to the next lesson with you. It’s easy to look at those students’ grades and projects and feel like you’ve done your job. What about the students who read two grade levels below everyone else or the students whose parents have them in private lessons and summer programs that are well ahead of the rest of the class? Differentiated lesson planning is important. When I first started learning how to lesson plan, I thought, “How often am I actually going to have to do this?” The answer is pretty much almost every time I’ve taught there have been students either well ahead or far behind who need me to meet them where they are.
Also, knowing that “it’s not about me” in the classroom means forgiving quickly and continuing to teach all of your students, even the one who just did something disrespectful. It’s difficult to be an effective teacher while holding grudges and continuing to exclude someone from the classroom community because of something they did yesterday. Unless something is horribly wrong (i.e. egregious physical violence), I’m a huge fan of restorative justice in the classroom. In a lot of cases, kicking students out only puts them farther and farther behind academically, frustrates them more, and perpetuates negative behavior. It may feel easier to teach without a certain student in class, but adopting an “it’s not about me” attitude means teaching students that may or may not be likable too.