There have been times when my students make so much progress that it appears I have found the secret to good teaching. And there are times when I pour my heart, soul, skill, and knowledge into others, only to experience success in the minutest of increments.
I am reminded of something Sarah Brown Wessling, 2010 National Teacher of the Year said:
I really hate disappointing people. In fact, I'll usually go to great lengths to avoid doing so, but there's one occasion I just can't escape. It's when someone—a teacher, parent, policy maker—comes up quietly and gently and asks me about teaching. "What's your secret?" And they're disappointed. Every time. The secret is that there isn't a secret to good teaching. The secret is that I'm not a great teacher every single day, that sometimes I'll toil for a whole year and see very little growth with a student. But if there's one thing I know for sure, it's that I'm deliberate, I'm tenacious, and I look at every student with infinite hope.
Although there may not be one secret, there are perhaps a few critical things we can do to ensure that each child reaches their potential when they are with us.
- Build relationships. If we get to know our students personally, we can more readily make connections that will lead to inspiration, motivation, and progress.
- Focus on learning. The fundamental purpose of our lives in the classroom must be student learning, not our teaching.
- Use assessments. We must analyze assessments and use the data to make instructional decisions. It's when good instruction intersects with student readiness and effort that the magic happens.
- Be reflective. Extend grace to ourselves when things don't go the way we want, and refine our practice so they will next time.
And like Sarah, be deliberate, tenacious, and look at every student with infinite hope.