Written by Steve Saturday, June 02 2012 09:45
Teaching Tip of the Week
In this final Teaching Tip of the 2011-2012 school year, I would like to re-visit an idea I presented last year at this time. My website is less than two years old and doesn’t yet have any real traditions, and I would like to start one now. I vow that at the end of each school year, this site's last Teaching Tip will focus on one of the foundational components of a quality classroom: an emphasis on continuous improvement.
As teachers, we spend countless hours helping our students get a little bit better at everything they do. Helping students improve involves various strategies and techniques, but more than anything else, continuous improvement is an attitude, a mindset.
In this Teaching Tip I describe how the spirit of continuous improvement applies to us as educators throughout the length of our careers. Since I think, talk, and understand the world via sports, I begin with a sports analogy.
Many fans consider Michael Jordan to be the most outstanding basketball player of all time. (These people would be right.) It’s difficult to argue with his credentials. He earned two Olympic gold medals, led the league in scoring 10 times, won five Most Valuable Player awards, participated in 13 All-Star Games, and took the Chicago Bulls to six NBA Championships.
Though he excelled as a player during each of his professional seasons, Jordan at the age of 32 was far superior to Jordan at 22. In no way did he arrive in the NBA as a finished product. Of course, natural talent played a large role in his success, but hard work played an even larger one.
Every summer, during the league’s off-season, Jordan committed himself to improving specific aspects of his game. One summer, he would focus on his three-point shooting, another on his defense, still another on his free throws. By purposefully working to develop into a complete player, Jordan made the most of his vast potential.
Similarly, as teachers, we have the opportunity and, I believe, the responsibility to develop our skills over the course of our careers so that we may maximize our potential as educators. Of course, instead of basketball skills, our focus lies in developing our pedagogical skills (our ability to employ a variety of instructional approaches that give students their greatest possible chance of academic success) and our management skills.
In some cases, our schools and districts take the lead in providing consistent, thorough training in these areas. For those of us who aren’t as fortunate, we take it upon ourselves to build our repertoires - we read, reflect, plan, attend conferences, connect with colleagues via social media, and participate in continuing education. Ultimately, responsibility for our own professional development lies with us as individuals.
Over time, our hard work pays off. All of our data collection, discussions with students, and efforts to build a culture of quality and improvement will yield substantial dividends. We will know more about how to do our jobs better. We will be more familiar with a wider variety of guiding approaches and have a better sense of how to use them for the greatest instructional benefit. We will know more about what works, what doesn’t, and why. We will get a little bit better every day and significantly better every year. As a result, more students will demonstrate proficiency with the content standards. More students will enjoy more subjects. More students will demonstrate the habits of mind and character that distinguish them as quality learners. The progress will not come right away, but it will be steady and consistent. In the end, we will all be able to take pride and satisfaction in a job well done.
So, this summer I encourage all of you to enjoy the relaxation time you have earned and fully deserve. To the greatest extent possible, however, try to find time to identify aspects of your teaching practice that you would like to improve and invest the time to make it happen.
Have a great summer.
New Teaching Tips appear every Sunday of the school year.
Want to Stay Informed?
Teaching Tip of the Week
Teaching Kids How to Get "Unstuck" While Writing (Teaching Tip #106)In this Teaching Tip I provide a link to a short YouTube video I created. The video features two effective strategies that help children become “unstuck” while they are writing. The first of these strategies is a familiar one, while the second is less well-known and a bit more novel. Try these ideas in class with your students or at home with your children.
» See all Teaching Tips
Blogs I Follow
teachertime123 (A network for educators filled with teaching ideas, projects, and other wonderful resources)
classantics.com (Corey Green, M.Ed., National Board Certified Teacher, Author)
fabulousclassroom.com (Marcy Cohen Turner, B.S., Elem. Ed., J.D., Licensed Attorney, Certified Teacher K-9, Author)
rickackerly.com (Rick Ackerly, educator, speaker, author, and school turnaround guy)
teachertipster.com (Dustin Smith, Arkansas teacher with a great website full of helpful resources)
tiestoliteracy.com (Stephanie Moyers, Boys' Literacy Specialist)
staceylundgren.com (Stacey Lundgren, Speaker, Author, Coach, Character Education Professional, & Columnist)
Making Family Fun (Nancy Kelly, British Columbia, Canada)
|Follow Steve on Twitter if you’d like to receive his Teaching Tip of the Week and other important announcements on your phone.|