My niece, Alicia, is a middle school English teacher. She loves, I mean LOVES, her job. I can imagine her in a classroom finding creative and sensitive ways to meet the needs of all of her little darlings. She’s the teacher we all want. The teacher who will change us in unexpected ways.
I’m guessing that you had one of those teachers and that you remember his or her name. That you’re grateful for the kindness or the intellectual excitement or the books s/he put into your hands.
I was a teacher, too, when I was in my 20’s and 30’s. Sixth grade, at first. Then I became a TAG (talented and gifted) teacher. I had the amazing opportunity to work with small groups of curious, funny, super-smart kids. One of them (now in his 40s) found me on Facebook the other day and sent me a note of appreciation. I’ve heard from others, too. It’s so gratifying to know that I made a difference for some of them all of those years ago.
And now another school year begins. So I wonder. How do we support our teachers? How can we support the ones who are sensitive, creative, and flexible and who love their jobs and our kids? How can we help the teachers who are overwhelmed and anxious, who are misunderstanding the needs of our rainforest-minded sweeties? How can we influence society to prioritize the importance of education for all children?
I guess if I knew the answers to those questions I wouldn’t be sitting here at my kitchen table with my itty-bitty blog. I’d be a much-sought-after keynoter at conferences with titles like: Elite Athletes and Celebrities Turn their Earnings Over to Teachers Conference.
Instead, well, here are some starter ideas for teachers:
It won’t take much to get your gifted students to adore you. Listen to them. Let them know that you appreciate how hungry they are to learn, then find ways to feed them. Bring extra books, materials and mentors into your classroom. Have flexible deadlines for projects. Let them work with other gifted kids. Eliminate assignments that teach what they already know and replace them with projects that tap into their interests. Consider that they may have learning disabilities along with their giftedness; don’t be afraid to get input from parents. Notice when they’re overwhelmed or emotional and appreciate their tender sensitivities. Let them work at their own pace whenever possible. Don’t assume that they’re lazy if they’re not turning in assignments. You don’t have to answer all of their questions; just love their curiosity and guide them to multiple resources. Let your enthusiasm for your subject matter show. You won’t be perfect; understand that if they correct your mistakes that they aren’t gloating, there’s no intention to embarrass you. You can find some teaching materials here and here.
And information for parents:
For both teachers and parents:
The work that you do for children is extraordinarily important and you’re often not recognized or appreciated for it. It can be exhausting and overwhelming. Be sure to find ways to nourish yourself. Feed your own hungry soul what it needs. And, as my niece Alicia writes, “…these kiddos teach me everyday about the capacity of the human spirit and remind me to #chooselove!”
To my blogEEs: Please share your success stories about teaching and schooling. Let us know what works and how we can get athletes and celebrities to fork over their dough.