Every month we publish two articles on “Shady Oak Best Practices,” our favorite approaches to education and why they work. If friends ask why you send your kids to Shady Oak instead of a “regular” school, refer them to this series—and the science backing us up—for starters.
Many teachers enter the field with great enthusiasm, then within a few years are plodding along in “it’s a living” mode. Retaining passion for teaching isn’t always easy, but it is possible—and more than worthwhile in the benefits it reaps for students, teachers, schools, and even the larger community. If you want to be a passionate teacher, the qualities you need most are:
Empathy Balanced with Firmness
Relying on either at the expense of the other will get you in trouble. No one likes the tyrannical teacher, but just as bad is the one who tries so hard to be understanding that s/he lets the worst behavior run unchecked—who distorts the truth that misbehaving kids are unhappy kids into the fear that any reprimand may further damage their self-esteem. Always consider others’ points of view, but insist on order, and tolerate no excuses for bullying.
The best of us can’t completely inoculate our classrooms against restlessness and bad days. If you react to every uncooperative response and computer crash as a personal attack, you’ll burn up your emotional energy and cripple your ability to deal effectively with the situation. Learn to let minor annoyances go. Accept students as unique individuals with unique needs, and accept their feelings as legitimate even when they seem illogical to you. Avoid blaming the kids or yourself when not everything goes “just right.”
Imagination and Flexibility
Blindly copying generic lesson plans creates the stereotypical puts-students-to-sleep classroom and generates teacher burnout. Experiment with new things and be ready to follow the unexpected where it leads. And allow plenty of space for student input.
Commitment and Optimism
A good many divorces happen because one or both partners expected passion to be self-sustaining, and abdicated all personal responsibility for keeping it going. You needn’t swear a public “till death do us part” vow to your teaching job, but you should understand it will have its low-enthusiasm moments—and when they come, it’s up to you to stay positive and trust that the good times will return.
At Shady Oak, we emphasize passionate teaching because enthusiastic teachers breed enthusiastic students—and enthusiastic students become effective and successful adults.
Science Backs Us Up! Further Resources on the Topic