Believe relentlessly in your students

teachers foster self-esteemI have a student who’s been historically a goofball. He frequently misses class, sometimes sleeps in class, likes to skip homework and works hard just to get a C.

Yet there have been moments when he has joined class discussion — and I was impressed by great intelligence. I see in his fun-loving attitude an emotional healthiness (he won’t be suffering from high blood pressure). He could be a good lawyer because he’s quick to analyze and think of his feet.

Juan (they always call that no-name example “Johnny”) comes weighted down by “at-home problems.” The psychological chaos from his disintegrated/disintegrating family interferes with his ability to learn. He needs to find at school what his parents are coming up short in giving: love. He needs to find someone who believes in him.

Sometimes its not the lesson plan. Maybe your student won’t be Harvard-accepted. Still, a teacher is called to make a life-long impact in the lives of his students. And he must looks past the sting of open rebellion.

A teacher must believe in her students RELENTLESSLY. She must believe in them because nobody else does. She must continue to believe in them because if not they’re going to fall into drugs or cut their wrists. Our society is a society of rejection, and a teacher fills the roll of accepting students. No matter how bad is your student, you must look for that glimmer of hope, that spark of talent. No one in this world is without some gift. It is the teacher’s job to ferret it out, to bring it to the attention of the student, to cause they student to believe in himself.

This is even more important than fulfilling academic standards.

Improving your teaching: One thing helped me

improving your teachingI went back to school. I had good and bad professors. I was treated unfairly and humiliated sometimes. Being on the other side of the teacher’s desk helped revolutionize my teaching.

I would listen to students. I would legitimate their struggles, not scoff at them and dismiss them. I would be clearer with my instructions and assignments. I would be less dictatorial.

Every teacher should, at some point, go back for some more education — not just to get the latest and greatest theories. No, the purpose is to be the receiving end of someone else’s teaching, to feel the sting of the ogre prof. That will make you swear to never be like that. And your students will appreciate it.

Probably all of us teachers swear by what were doing: “Nobody teaches better than me.” But when we get into a class and change our perspective (to that of a student’s), then we can reflect about what we do. We see it through other eyes. Maybe some teaching technique we confidently use, really isn’t so good after all. Sitting among the classmates helps that.