One thing I will be forever grateful for in my time spent out of the classroom is the opportunity it gave me to watch teachers teach. As a support provider to teachers working at two large elementary schools and going through coaching blitzes, I have seen well over 100 teachers teach. Yes over 100. How many teachers get to say that? To say I have been blessed, which I have been, does not express the depth of gratitude I hold in my heart for having been allowed in those classrooms.
This past week, I was pulled out of my classroom to be part of the “school review team.” - a wonderful opportunity ----dampened somewhat by the thought of being gone from my students for two days in a row. But as always, I walked away feeling enriched by what I saw and heard in the discussions we had as a review team about how much growth we saw in our students from kindergarten to eighth grade.
Because I always learn something when I watch teachers teach, I’ve decided to distill my reflections down into some key takeaways worth sharing with you.
I’ve spent time in each teacher’s room ranging anywhere from fifteen minutes up to seventy-five minutes. The over whelming majority of teachers that I have had the privilege to watch have been great to outstanding. I can say with all honesty that out of the 100 to 125 teachers who I’ve observed only about five to seven were what I would call poor. My first reflection is my belief that the sample of what I’ve seen is likely comparable to the broader teaching quality happening across America.
My second reflection has to do with the esteem they hold for their students. The teachers I’ve watched genuinely care and want the best for their students. They have an unconditional regard for their students’ well being and an unfailing enthusiasm for their students to achieve to their full potential. Did I see this 100% of the time, every time I visited a classroom? No, but teachers are human and like all human beings we need to remember everyone has a bad day now and then.
Third, I’ve realized that teachers genuinely want to succeed at their profession and to be thought of as “effective.” But sometimes, my fellow teachers and the public at large perceive teachers as being satisfied with the status quo. I heartily disagree. I have not met one teacher who really just wants to be thought of as the “teacher who is just getting by.” Or the teacher who “is just waiting to retire.” I have never met a teacher who went into the profession (and stayed in the profession) just because we have so many vacation days. Nor have I ever met or observed a teacher who wants to be or was satisfied with being thought of as the worst teacher in the school. I believe the great majority of teachers care deeply about what they do and I believe are giving their profession all they have to give. Teaching is way too hard and too demanding to just go through the motions without personal investment in your practice.
Finally, I want to again acknowledge what a huge gift I was given through the opportunity to observe over 100 teachers teach. If you were one of the 100 plus teachers I got to see teach, I want to say to you: “Thank you for helping me to become a better teacher and human being.”
For all other teachers reading this, I say: “Thank you for choosing one of the hardest professions to be in, and never forget that student by student, instructional day after instructional day, you are making a difference.”
The opinions expressed in Teaching While Leading are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.