One who accepts the call of teacher and truly feels it is his or her role in life accepts more than just the act of passing on knowledge; it is more than a 40-hour a week job. It is not just some whiting an individual gets involved in, but really it becomes life. It is life and breath of the individual who takes on this task, insomuch as teaching is but one of the jobs that teachers really have. From counselor to nurse, from uncle to dad, and from teacher to mentor, a true teacher who cares about the students in his or her direct environment digs deeper, goes further, stretches wider and does what is necessary to meet the clear and present needs of the students in their care. You may ask why this is the case. You may wonder why a true teacher pushes forward despite the many challenges that plague education today. You may ask yourself, where the drive comes from that encourages the teacher to persist, against all odds.
One of the biggest challenges as an educator has been perception. How do you “view” the challenges, limitations and setbacks experienced as an educator? How do you maintain a student-centered view, regardless of the potential barriers that often attempt to limit your scope of influence? With the student in mind, the diligent and driven educator finds ways to meet required educational objectives as well as student-driven needs. The students are stakeholders and it is this understanding that educators must have in order to prepare them for their paths in life. I must say that there have been times, for me, that I have questioned why I go to such lengths to be there, in whatever capacity for students. There is undoubtedly a greater synergy within me that compels me to pursue, which requires that my perception is right. Wayne Dyer so eloquently stated “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.”
What are the actions of an educator that are connected to perception? How does perception lead to action? What are the actions of an educator that is driven by a passion that is bigger than the issues and challenges faced? I have ten years of classroom teaching experience and one thing I have come to know is that sometimes my plan does not align with what needs to happen at a given moment. If the goal is to foster a student-centered environment, where the student is the complete focus, and I mean the whole student, then the decisions made about what happened in the classroom should reflect this activity. You have heard the phrase many times I am sure, that actions speak louder than words. Indeed it is still true. We think therefore we act. We are beings of action as educators. We are shaping the next generation; we are the catalysts by which students become leaders. Without the cultivation, leadership, inspiration, motivation, building and enriching of students, then we cannot see them “CLIMBE.” “The future depends on what you do today.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi.
A well-known proverb states “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” In other words, if there is a desire to do something, there is a way in which to get it done. One of the greatest facets of an individual is the will, or the option to choose what one will do or how one will perceive and act. When you are challenged by administration because you have a totally different perspective or perception of what students need in the classroom, what choice do you make? Do you decide on what YOU as the skilled educator knows is best for the current-year students, or do you act based on administrator pushback? Or, do you attempt to demonstrate the effectiveness of your instructional practices and allow it to speak for you? When you have parents that do not agree with your teaching style, do you continue to go down the path that you are driven or do you side with parents and provide alternatives in order to satisfy them? When you have fellow educators that are unwilling to grow and change, but would rather stay stuck in yesterday, do you allow yourself to adopt a similar lackadaisical attitude, or do you realize the growing need for innovation and change and act on it? These can often be tough decisions for educators. It is the will of an individual that embraces the opportunity to be driven. Above all, and considering all of these possibilities, perhaps you are the spark that it will take to start the engine. Perhaps you are the one who will drive the car. Perhaps by stepping out into unfamiliar territory, having the courage to take the step, may cause others around you to start to question what you are doing, how you are doing it and how they may jump on board and do it with you, becoming driven themselves.
When the day ends, will the educator be pleased with the strides he or she has made to prepare students to achieve greatness? The student-centered classroom is based on constructivism of knowledge and student empowerment in order to maximize learning experiences. In a student-centered approach to learning, the teacher intentionally acts as facilitator, offering feedback, guidance and challenge to students. The end result is that students own their learning and become empowered to actively engage, construct, define, extend and challenge themselves and others. These are simply a few of the active verbs associated with student learning. When students are the ultimate and driving focus, they tend to determine what is taken away from an experience, or what experiences are necessary even. In this way, educators, like you and I can move away from typical ways of teaching, learning and assessment, to more authentic and meaningful forms. Steven Redhead said “The world you acquire and partake in is purely driven by the choices taken.”
A future post will follow this one and will be titled “The Case for Empowerment.”