How were things for you at school back in the day? What did it feel like at age 7, 8, 12, 14 or even 17? Did you feel in control of things around you? What are your most precious memories? Were they academic in nature?
Chances are they were memories of a sporting or cultural event that was of a ‘non-academic’ nature. Maybe a show you worked on, or a team you played with. The people that I’ve asked over the years have mostly reflected on non-academic memories that evoked feelings of connectedness to their students, teachers, and school. With that in mind, let’s take the time to think about how we are acting as teachers, and are we sculpting future lifelong memories for our students?
Recently I surveyed what students remember from their time with me as their teacher over a decade ago. Guess how many ex-students wrote about academic outcomes? Zero! Every single person responded with a feeling that they were left with. Our job as teachers is all about the connections with students that we create and then how we connect them to their learning.
When you are feeling anxious and overwhelmed by the weight of expectation on you as a teacher, remember this, you are enough. As long as you genuinely love what you’re doing and are committed to it, you’re on the right path. So here’s how you can achieve greatness and become a memorable teacher.
A fundamental trait of a memorable teacher is supportiveness. Being supportive doesn’t mean showering students with compliments, giving them false praise, or humouring them. It means knowing when it’s time to challenge them and when it’s time to ease their fear and insecurities.
Your support has a powerful effect on your students’ lives, as it can help them build confidence and unravel their potential. As a teacher, you have a moral duty to see the best in all your students and point them in the right direction even when their parents fail to do so.
No one remembers a teacher that sounded like they recited a lesson from memory. Or one who always seemed bored and tired—and when we do, it’s not for a good reason.
Show how passionate you are about your job and that teaching is not a chore by delivering your lessons in a lively manner. This means you should try to be a bit of an actor and a crafty storyteller. Subjects that are boring or hard to stick, like history, must feel like you’re narrating a great adventure. When you’re reading literature, make characters come alive to increase engagement, and create mathematical stories to make learning more fun and effective.
Don’t be afraid to act silly and laugh with your students. Laughter will bring you closer, as it helps students relax and puts them in a better mood. Children, too, have bad days, so they may need you to cheer them up with jokes and entertaining stories. On a more practical level, you can also use humour to de-escalate tension among students and confront disruptive behaviour.
As adults, we’re advised to keep negative people away, because nothing good can come from being surrounded by pessimistic, judgemental, or generally unpleasant people. In the same spirit, try to be the teacher who adds a sprinkle of joy to your students’ day by modelling optimism and positivity.
There are always going to be rough days, either at school or at home. But a good teacher knows how to put their bad mood aside. They don’t lash out at students or make sarcastic comments. So try to forget about what’s going on in your life and enter the classroom with a big smile. We are lucky enough to be surrounded by children, who are usually full of joy and energy. Let them be your source of power on the days you need it the most.
To make an impression, you have to make your classes interesting and create unique experiences for your students. Play classroom games or explore fascinating topics that students care about. Celebrate holidays with unique events or create your own traditions throughout the year. Try not to let it be more of the same everyday. Because although children need to have a routine and stability, they’re also particularly prone to boredom, and with boredom comes mischief!
Be Kind and Patient
Patience is a virtue, especially in the classroom. A teacher must show patience in all sorts of situations. You need it with students who have a hard time keeping up, as well as with those who can’t sit still. A great deal of patience is also required when dealing with students that are hard to create a connection with.
In the eyes of students, patience is kindness. It’s having a teacher that makes them feel safe, one who gives them space and time without judgement. Most of all, it’s having a teacher that doesn’t give up on them and gives them a second chance even when they mess up. Be that teacher, and they’ll remember you for life.
Be there for them
Teaching is about three things, relationships, relationships and finally, relationships. People remember those who have had an impact on their lives. We remember those we’ve had fun with, who were there for us when we needed them and those we trusted. So eventually it all comes down to building a relationship with your students and not being one of the many teachers that passed through their lives but didn’t leave a mark.
Show concern about them, treat them with respect and let them be heard. And, of course, have lots of fun together! You can certainly have a more friendly relationship with your students without compromising your leadership.
What’s more fulfilling than knowing you have shaped a young person’s life for the better? As teachers, we have a unique opportunity to have this kind of positive impact and create a unique bond with our students that last for a lifetime. Don’t let it go to waste.
Working Together We Can Build Better Brains!