Often times, students come to us with a history of failure, leading to a loss of self-confidence and motivation. This can happen when student performance is assessed against an absolute scale. It is important to understand that personal growth, whether it be fast or slow, is often the real measure of success and should be celebrated with no less enthusiasm than perfect scores on some imposed external assessment. At no time should self-esteem be sacrificed on an alter of 'achievement'.
The aware and creative teacher understands and practices education that is based on the learner's point of view. Being aware of a student's level of understanding and ways of thinking allows the creative educator to anchor new, more challenging and sophisticated thinking to something with which the student is already comfortable. This critical step in the retention of new information, then, forms a foundation upon which the students can build more complex forms of thinking. Questions, correcting errors, providing timely feedback, directing students to appropriate resources, encouragement both in the face of difficulty and success, challenges appropriate to the students, examples that are meaningful to the students, and real world cases are all tools that the educator can provide as the students build their library of knowledge, thought and skills.
Certainly, the methods of education that we as educators have learned and that we use in the classroom are important, but there aren't any books to read or classes to take that can teach you how to genuinely care about your students. Natural teachers have an intuition of what is good for their students, and empathy for them each as individuals. They strive to know what makes each student who they are and are aware of when the education is becoming frustrating. Teachers have the occasion to foster self-esteem or self-deprecation, success or failure, self-confidence or insecurity. These are not lessons that last one day, but for a lifetime.
I recall teaching at Baton Rouge High School , in Louisiana , USA . It is well respected in the area for its liberal arts focus. In the month of December, some of my students invited me to watch them dance in The Nutcracker. Up until the moment I saw them dancing so gracefully and with self-confidence and abilities beyond their years did I see them as anything but students struggling with their math and science courses. The next time I saw them in class, I saw them as individuals, accomplished in dance or some other aspect of their lives and was a bit humbled by it all. It was a paradigm shift for me as an educator. What a great Christmas present.
Back to top