At one time or another, many an educator searches for ways of becoming a more empathetic teacher...
There are many things to understand about teaching when you first begin your career, and even more as your career progresses. Things shift so rapidly and exponentially in this profession that it's easy to be overwhelmed. As such, wanting to be a better teacher is something every educator strives for in the face of change. Internalizing a few fundamental truths like the ones below will help make that happen.
Much has been debated about why education needs to transform, and teachers are fed up with being told what they are doing wrong. We think teachers make remarkable accomplishments in what is one of the most difficult professions in the world. We also believe that mindset is key in transformation. You can take the great work you're doing and make it exceptional, and it starts with the little things like the ones below.
These following tips have been offered to us by the educators we have the privilege of working with over the years. We're thrilled to be able to pass their wisdom and insight to you.
5 Important Things to Understand About Teaching
Internalize these truths and recall them every time you succeed, fail, or just feel lost. They're among the most important things to understand about teaching, and also among the most transformational.
1. Your learners are 100% of our future.
It's you who inspires our future innovators and leaders. Although children are only a small percentage of the population, they are 100 percent of the future. This idea shouldn't scare you; it should inspire you.
Every day you nurture the young minds that will one transform the world we live in. You are their lifeline to success and their mentor for the learning journeys they will take beyond school. You teach them about possibilities and about how they can tap their own potential to achieve greatness, for themselves and for the whole world. And you are more than up to the task, even on the days when you feel like you aren't.
2. Being a teacher is an emotional experience.
One of the most crucial things to understand about teaching is that people are emotional beings. The art of teaching happens from both the head and the heart. It's a journey that revolves around your ability to connect, inspire, and enable your learners and your colleagues. This also includes the ones who will fight you every step of the way.
One of the most crucial things to understand about teaching is that people are emotional beings.
We have literally no idea what another person's journey is all about. It's hard to remember the colleague resisting change is afraid of losing a career that has sustained them and their family for decades. We don't always consider that a bully could be abused, misunderstood, and needs help too. It's hard to fathom the slow learner with attention issues may be painting masterpieces in their spare time. But imagine how our thoughts and attitudes would change if we knew these things.
3. Change happens, so embrace it.
Another one of the most important things to understand about teaching is that change is inevitable. If education is to continue surviving, changes will continue to happen that we can't yet fathom. Teaching has reshaped itself in a few years, so imagine what the field will be like 5, 10, or 20 years from now. Do you need to worry about all that at this very moment? Of course not—that would drive anyone crazy. What you do need to do is be prepared to explore it, embrace it, and learn from it.
If you've been a teacher for pretty much any length of time, you know how quickly the education landscape is changing. Information, the technology that connects us to it, and the rise of social media have all contributed to this change. It has also brought a very special kind of learner into our classrooms. This is a learner with needs and learning styles that are a far cry from anything many of us have experienced before. Though we may not have seen it coming, it was always on the way.
4. Your failures don't define you.
In our work with teachers the world over, we've discovered perfectionism is a burden that individuals often place upon themselves. Surprisingly, it isn't usually an expectation that comes from the surrounding environment. Our advice is to stop striving to not make mistakes, and learn from the ones you make as we expect our learners to do.
Change is usually only as bad as we choose to make it.
Perfection is something that we never truly attain, and as such it's kind of a false concept. What is most important is that we simply focus on being better than we were yesterday. If we begin to define ourselves by our failures, we stop short of reaching our full potential. Even worse, we run the risk of modelling this destructive mindset for our students.
5. Teaching's true rewards cannot be held in your hands.
Many teachers struggle with a lot of different things about their jobs. Long hours, low pay, and disdain for the profession in general are all experiences at some point. These things can make you lose sight of why you became a teacher in the first place—to not only prepare our youth, but to transform them. The greatest reward in the profession is knowing you were part of making that happen, though it isn't always apparent.
Any teacher can tell you the pride they have felt meeting a student of theirs years after their classroom days and discovering that student has always remembered how well and with how much compassion they were taught. The values we encourage in our students now—humility, charity, citizenship, perseverance, adaptability, independence, and more—are the values they carry forward into their lives beyond school. Those are the greatest gifts you can give, and the impact they have is the reward you get in return.
As a teacher, you can never tell where your influence starts or how far it will go. In fact, you may never know. The point is that you do influence each and every child that crosses your path, and they will always remember you.
It comes down to this: What kind of a teacher do you want to be remembered as?
Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Jan 15, 2020, updated Dec 19, 2021