A role model is a person who inspires and encourages us to strive for greatness, live to our fullest potential and see the best in ourselves. A role model is someone we admire and someone we aspire to be like. We learn through them, through their commitment to excellence and through their ability to make us realize our own personal growth. We look to them for advice and guidance.
A role model can be anybody: a parent, a sibling, a friend but some of our most influential and life-changing role models are teachers.
My Teacher, My Hero
When you think of the type of teacher you'd like to be, who comes to mind? The math teacher that helped you conquer fractions? The English teacher who wrote great comments on your stories? The teacher that helped you discover a new sport, hobby, talent--or maybe even nudged you down your current career path?
Those are the teachers we're celebrating through our YouTube channel, My Teacher, My Hero. Together, we're paying homage to the teachers that have played such an integral part in shaping our lives, and to their importance in shaping the next generation of educators.
“When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” — Marlene Canter, My Teacher My Hero
Teachers follow students through each pivotal stage of development. At six to eight hours a day, five days a week, you as a teacher are poised to become one of the most influential people in your students’ life. After their parents, children will first learn from you, their elementary school teacher. Then, as a middle school teacher, you will guide students through yet another important transition: adolescence. As children become young adults, learning throughout middle school and into high school, you will answer their questions, listen to their problems and teach them about this new phase of their lives. You not only watch your students grow you help them grow.
“We think of teacher-heroes that taught us the academics but we don’t often think of those teachers that taught us life’s lessons.” — Maria Wale, My Teacher My Hero
Much of what students learn from their greatest teachers is not detailed on a syllabus. Teachers who help us grow as people are responsible for imparting some of life’s most important lessons. During their initial school years, students encounter, perhaps for the first time, other children of the same age and begin to form some of their first friendships. As a teacher, you will show your students how to become independent and form their own relationships, you will carefully guide them and intervene when necessary. School is as much a place of social learning as academic learning, and this is true, not only in our early years of education, but all the way through college. Though a teacher’s influence on the social sphere of school lessens as students mature, those early lessons still have an effect on how they will interact with others in the future.
Teachers are founts of experience. They have already been where their students are going, undergone what they will go through and are in a position to pass along lessons, not only regarding subject matter, but lessons on life.
Meet Great Teachers
Teach.com has been speaking with award-winning teachers from across the country to hear their stories and, hopefully, find out a bit about what it is exactly that makes them great. If you are currently a teacher or thinking about becoming a teacher, take a look at some of the Teacher Profiles below to learn a bit more about what can make a teacher great.
Here's how: Take a video of yourself discussing your favorite teacher. You can use the below prompts to get your wheels turning.
1. Choose an example of how your teacher changed your way of thinking or acting.
Did your teacher encourage you to take risks? To overcome self-defeating thoughts or behavior? Did he or she help you speak up more in class, or have more patience with solving problems?
2. Tell us how these changes have influenced your life's direction.
Did they help you uncover a unique talent, or steer you away from a dangerous life path? How did this change your eventual direction in life?
3. Share an interesting story.
Sometimes actions speak louder than words. And your story doesn't have to be serious! A teacher's impact often shines through the most.
And of course, remember to say thank you! Click to watch the rest of the My Teacher, My Hero series on YouTube
I thought my second grade teacher was an angel. She had long, sandy blonde hair and a smile for everyone. And she had the best name we had ever heard: Miss Kjoller (pronounced "Keeler"). We knew enough about letters to think, what is that 'j' doing there?
In Miss Kjoller's classroom, language was a mystery and a joy. It could help us discover our past (her name was German, we learned) and introduce new ideas that no one had heard before. She set up a reading corner with books and giant beanbags, and encouraged us to express our ideas in our own journal – a little book of handwriting paper with spaces for illustrations. She connected with us each individually, and made us feel that our thoughts and concerns were important.
Second grade was a stark contrast to first grade, where my teacher was unprepared, overwhelmed, and unhappy. I felt like a burden to her, and I started coming home with stomach aches. On the outside, the two classrooms looked a lot alike, and it may have been the first year for both teachers, but Miss Kjoller made me love school again.
The impact teachers have on our lives is undeniable. It is probably the reason many of us chose it as a career – either because we were inspired by a great teacher or motivated by the idea that if we were in charge, we could do a better job.
As a first and second grader, I was not (and should not have been) aware of the work that went into creating those learning environments, but I could distinctly sense the difference between them. Some early preparation can set the stage for a positive and successful year for you and your students. Here are four suggestions for starting the year off strong:
- Get to know your students before the first day.
Talk to previous teachers, look through yearbooks, and read students' files – especially those with IEPs. Know their struggles, but also give them the opportunity to start fresh. Knowing a little about them will help you feel less nervous, and may give you ideas about ways to engage them. Remember that they will be nervous on the first day too!
- Start early in establishing a relationship with parents.
If they have talked to you once, they will be more likely to share information later that will help you understand and address learning problems. It will also open the door for suggesting activities to promote reading and learning at home.
- Create a system for regular assessment and progress monitoring.
This will help identify weak areas early and give you regular feedback about your methods.
- Establish a relationship with an experienced teacher.
A mentor can answer questions, provide support, and reassure you when you need it!
Questions from First Year Teachers
Reading Rockets solicited questions from people about to embark on their first year of teaching. Below are some of the answers to some of their questions:
I am nervous about the accountability set by No Child Left Behind. What will happen to me if my students do not improve their reading scores enough during the year?
No Child Left Behind requires all public schools to meet adequate yearly progress (AYP). If schools do not meet progress goals two years in a row, they are labeled "in need of improvement." NCLB outlines a sequence of reforms, ending with a complete restructuring of the school after the fifth year. A school can only begin replacing teachers in poorly-performing schools after the fourth year of low performance. Though you will probably not lose your job due to NCLB after your first year, make sure you take opportunities to expand and improve your teaching techniques. This will secure your position as a teacher and your students' success as learners.
The U.S. Department of Education outlines the law and answers frequently asked questions in an easy-to-read manual called No Child Left Behind: A Toolkit for Teachers
There is a set amount of time that should be spent on reading each day, according to my district. Between that and the math time, it leaves less than an hour for science and social studies together. Can I integrate the reading time with other subjects to give my students a well-rounded education?
While students need to understand the mechanics of reading (just like we need to understand how to operate a car before we can drive around), the ultimate goal is to go places! Don't sacrifice content in your reading exercises. Organize reading lessons around themes, so that as students learn to read, they are getting ready to make use of this skill by tapping into a large reserve of knowledge on a variety of topics. Use science and social studies time to expand on the ideas you read about during reading time.
By incorporating different subjects into reading time, you are addressing two important components of a good literacy program, as identified by the National Reading Panel: fluency and comprehension. When children have background knowledge in lots of different areas, they will be able to link what they read to what they know, creating a larger web of understanding about the world around them.
The more you help students make connections within and between subject areas, the more they will get from reading!
What kind of homework can I give my students to help with their reading abilities? I don't want to just give them spelling worksheets.
The best way to use homework as a teaching tool is to assign a task that students can use during the next class period. Incorporate homework into a class activity so that students are practicing a skill independently at home and then putting it to use in the classroom. This way, they will feel their work was worthwhile, and you will be more likely to keep their assignments meaningful.
- Example 1: Vocabulary
Focus vocabulary words around a theme you are discussing in class. Assign each child 5 words and have them look up the definitions for homework. In class, put them into groups to label a diagram, present a report, or describe a process using the words. If each child had slightly different words in his list, they will all need to participate to complete the project.
- Example 2: Spelling
For spelling practice, give students a set of words with the same pattern (e.g. –eet). For homework, have them trace and illustrate each word. In class, play a game where students have to match the beginning sound (f-, b-, sw-, gr-), the common pattern (-eet), and their picture.
- Example 3: Writing
For homework, have students write two lines of a poem, using a recent vocabulary word. In class, have children put their segments together and create a song.
Don't give so much homework that they don't have time to be kids! And remember, work that seems quick and easy to you may take much longer for a child. In a nutshell, keep homework short and meaningful.
For more advice for first year teachers, check the transcript from Education Week's recent chat with teachers Hanne Denney and Jim Burke, Getting Ready for the New School Year: Advice for Teachers:
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