I often wonder about the different types of teacher that students are met with each day at school. They move from lesson to lesson and encounter an entirely new personality with a different style of teaching each time. Hopefully each different teacher follows the same expectations and holds the same values but I am intrigued about the way teachers use their personalities to educate and motivate.
I have come to think of teachers as having a ‘brand’: a particular style that they employ or certain personality features that they accentuate in order to teach most effectively.
My ‘brand’, as far as I am aware, is this –
- I always say hello at the door and take care to say student names. I vividly remember a day during teacher training when we were told that some students go an entire day without any adult saying their name. That made me deeply sad and so I always make a concerted effort to say hello to those that might go under the radar.
- I like to start lessons with something short, snappy and engaging just to get them listening and thinking. It will usually be a picture or a quotation for them to discuss. A lovely lady I used to work with told me that we should encourage students to feel like they can achieve from the very beginning of each lesson – every student can access a picture or discuss what they think it might mean and therefore no one feels like a failure before the lesson has even begun.
- I lend pens. I know, I know. I’m supposed to reprimand and log it and tell them to be more organised but I just think it’s easier to quietly lend a pen and let them get on with it! Students have so much to contend with before they even arrive at school that I can’t find myself getting angry over a pen.
- I am organised and so my students are organised. I like highlighters, colour-coding, stuck in sheets, dates and titles underlined and everything as it should be. I know it is perhaps a little pedantic but students showing pride in their work is important to me. If they begin as a disorganised student then I will spend time with them helping them so that they feel prepared and ready to tackle the lesson or homework effectively.
- I love peer assessment. If students are taught how to do this well then it has a real impact and massively reduces my marking.
- I don’t love marking. I find that marking often can have minimal impact on the student when it is done after the event. I try to ‘live mark’ as much as possible now so that students receive feedback in the moment and can correct work there and then. I save my big marking for assessments and target tasks.
- I care – I ask them how their day has been; what they particularly like about a novel; what they are currently reading; why they are upset and how certain issues in the lesson might affect their lives BUT…
- I set boundaries – students don’t get the opportunity to gossip and they know I won’t engage in off task talk for longer than 30 seconds. They recognise when they need to get on and work.
- I’m not a rule breaker. If I get a message from SLT then I do exactly as instructed. Whether that is going to a certain meeting, the way in which I fill out online homework or even reading a document immediately. People laugh at me for it but I can’t bear to break rules or be even slightly rebellious.
- I am a stickler for deadlines. (see above)
- I pick up on everything: chewing gum; untucked shirt; nail varnish; whispering (also see above)
- I try to make lessons fun and engaging wherever possible by trying a mix of different activities but they are always tied back to assessment objectives and the need to progress. I want to make sure that students always see the point in every activity and so feel that it is worth dedicating their time to it.
- I like displays – my classroom is bright and each display supports their learning. Students are proud of their work that is on the walls and I try to keep them up to date as much as possible. I currently have GCSE texts on the walls as I know these won’t change for a while and I can just refresh them when necessary.
- As a tutor, I remind them regularly that I am not there to look at their grades. Whilst I want them to do well and succeed, ultimately what I want is for them to become great people who are known for being kind, supportive and respectful. I try to give them some kind of inspirational speech each fortnight to remind them where they are and what they might do as an individual to become a better person. Obviously some of them roll their eyes but I give real examples and explain how I demonstrate kindness. Their challenge today is to get up to break time without making any negative comments.
- In my role as tutor I don’t come up with whizzy activities. I’m not very exciting in the morning – sorry! We normally end up watching Newsround and discussing the news or playing some kind of word in a word game together. This is when I’m not reading out notices or discussing whole school things with them. Not much I can do in 15 minutes but I think they’re all on track and doing fine!
- Acts of kindness – I hope I’m a kind person to work with. This morning I made an effort to write two short letters to two co-workers to remind them how well they’re doing and which traits I admire in them. I added some chocolates for a bit of a mid-January boost and both were incredibly grateful. I’ve been doling out Haribo too to those in need!
- My lessons aren’t perfect. Students aren’t always angelic and I don’t always manage to mark every book in the hour. The activities aren’t always inspirational or fun and sometimes I just want them to work and do a long writing piece. But sometimes they are angelic, I do get round everyone and I do have fun, inspirational lessons as often as I can manage. That’s all a teacher can reasonably be expected to do.
- I acknowledge my faults and learn from them but most of all try to think only of the positives.
- I want to be better. The driving force behind my teaching has always been the desire to be better. I want to be the kind of teacher that students admire and want to work for but I want to be respected at the same time. There’s a fine balance there. I also want to be the kind of colleague that motivates others and encourages them to try new things or even just to keep going at difficult times of the year. Eventually I want to be a leader who is able to promote resilience and professional curiosity in my staff.
I realise that this blog post sounds massively self-indulgent but also like the writing of a complete goody two shoes. I’ll happily admit that both of those things are quite a strong part of my personality. But that’s the final thing I wanted to say: there’s nothing wrong with being who you are and making it work for you. Teachers don’t all have to be the same.
Congratulations if you got to the end of that! What is your teacher ‘brand’?