What is a teacher?
I like to think of the role of a teacher as analogous to that of a coach. A teacher should approach with knowledge and experience and share these basic ideas. A teacher should guide students through activities where they flex and tone the muscles of their creativity, critical thinking, and curiosity. Then, a teacher should watch and advise as the student uses these muscles to work through problems and wrestle with new ideas. In other words, ideally, a teacher provides students with information, tools, and support but allows the student to develop his or her own understanding and method.
A teacher is also a student. A teacher should be a work in progress—embracing the notion that one can never be done learning. A teacher should be self-reflective, constantly questioning what is working and what is not. From there, a teacher should actively seek training, support, and advice from other professionals to keep constantly learning and growing as an educator.
What is a student?
All children have the right to learn in a quality education and the capacity to grow and succeed as learners. A student is a learner, an explorer, and leader. A student’s task is to take in new information, to let their curiosity drive them to new discoveries, and to express their interests in order to help drive the focus the class’s learning. The role of the student is to be flexible- to be willing to try new things and to be open to exploring teacher guidance. Students need to communicate, to help the teacher to understand what is best for the class. Finally, one of the most vital roles of a student is to take care of his or her needs, and to help him or herself learn, all while acting with respect and compassion for his/her peers’ needs and opinions.
How should the classroom be managed?
The ideal classroom is a safe space full of a mutually supportive and mutually respectful, caring community. A crucial part of classroom management is a discipline style that teaches students self-regulation, and respect and care for others. To discipline means to teach, so discipline should educate students on appropriate and constructive ways to behave.
The classroom needs to be full of fun and joy and to be directed by the needs and interests of students. There is need for order, organization, and rules- but not at the expense of the happiness of the kids. In other words, a teacher should not approach every year of students with the same set of rules, but rather, a general guiding principal of safety, care, and respect and spend the first six weeks of school discovering how best to establish that with each unique group of students.
What does quality learning look like?
Learning should be playful, and in-school play should be full of learning. Balls and ramps make for a fun game. But, assign a challenge to it, or ask a simple question, and suddenly they become a laboratory for exploring physics and cause and effect. Dramatic play can just be silly fun. But, ask a student to write you a menu in their restaurant, and they are developing literacy skills. Equally, a discussion on healthy eating can be less than exciting for a young student. But, turn it into a top agenda item at the imaginary meeting of your Superheroes Club, and suddenly it is of paramount importance and everyone has an idea to share. In a quality classroom joy and learning are wholly intertwined.
Learning should also be student-centered. Education that focuses on student interests and students’ needs naturally lends itself to successful students. If students feel cared about and provided for, they are more likely to try new things and take part in learning. If every student is taught self-regulation, then students have a better chance of growing up into functioning responsible adults. If students feel cared for, but are still challenged to be the best versions of themselves and challenged to achieve and transcend high standards, then they will grow up to be hard-working, caring people. Being a quality educator means planning a classroom that fosters children’s development into kind, strong, intelligent, resilient individuals.
How should students be assessed?
The best kind of assessment is the kind where the students are unaware that they are being assessed. In an Early Childhood room, I always feel more successful in getting a read on what the kids have learned if I approach the assessment activity like it were a simple activity or even a game. A teacher should aim to imbed opportunities for assessment into everyday activity and play. This way, the children are at their most relaxed state and the teacher is able to take qualitative and quantitative data while also making anecdotal notes about their approach to learning, their growth, and their development. This information should be recorded, tracked, and used to inform the plans for student learning moving forward