Being a fantastic teacher is a huge privilege, one that requires a huge level of time and caring. When I think of the amazing teachers I have had who impacted me, I feel like I should give my own students that same impact. When I think of becoming a teacher, it feels to me like a roadmap to success. I have my mountains and valleys, but this is such a unique journey, one that is just beginning, and it is so exciting. When I think about being an ideal teacher, four points come to my mind: responsibility, openness, teaching lessons for life, and teacher’s ethics and professionalism. I call this the R.O.L.E. roadmap to success.
The R is for responsibility. Being a responsible teacher is so integral. It is what you teach in the classroom, but also the strides in continuing your own education outside the classroom. This can be done through PLNs and professional development. PLNs are such an important way of gaining feedback through the peers in your field. There are many great avenues of this such as Twitter, Edutopia, FaceBook, Pinterest and Instagram. Research shows that having an established PLN leads in better emotional support of teachers, and in turn gives them confidence in presenting innovative ideas in their own classrooms. In the study mentioned in this podcast, PLNs had a positive impact on student learning and supported affective, social, cognitive, and identity aspects of teacher growth in those involved (Episode 17). PLNs are so effective in growth as a responsible teacher by providing the best education you can to your students. You also must continue your education through professional development. In Thomas R. Guskey’s article, he talks about the links between professional development and student learning and how they positively correlate. This is something that is necessary to being a teacher. Being a lifelong learner yourself makes you a greater teacher. In the study mentioned by Guskey, workshops were present in the positive correlation of student learning and professional development. When follow-up and sustained support are also present, it is even more likely. It is also important to use outside experts to give input. Coupled with professional development, outside experts are an important aspect of professional development because they see perspectives you don’t see yourself. In being a responsible teacher, you have to be able to open yourself up to input and feedback from other professionals to improve yourself, because that improves the learning of your students, which is the purpose in the first place.
The O is for openness. It is important for a teacher to be aware of their biases before they enter a classroom, assess themselves, and put those biases aside. As students in our own society, we develop bias all the time, but it is important to know that those biases are rarely true. In fact, most of them are blanket statements over a whole group of people that is simply unfair. As teachers, we have to be open to new students, minorities, children with disabilities, and other groups of students we may have. Diversity in a classroom is an extremely positive thing. In a study done by WISELI, it showed that diversity in classrooms has a positive impact on both the minority and the majority student base. It showed that “diverse working groups were more productive, creative, and innovative than homogenous groups” (WISELI). A national study of student learning also found that classrooms with more diversity led to more critical thinking in in-class and out-of-class interactions between students (WISELI). It is so easy to fall back on what you think you know, rather than let it slide. In order to make students and teachers more aware of the invisible bias they have, Harvard created a test called the Implicit Association Test, which tests bias. It is important as teachers to be open to our students of all backgrounds, put bias aside, and recognize that interactions between different types of students fosters learning, and contributes to the success we have as a country. As teachers, we must foster that growth and creativity inside and outside the classroom. We need to be open to unique types of students, unique languages, and unique perspectives inside the classroom as well.
L stands for lessons for life. As a teacher, you teach one subject, sometimes multiple subjects, and you hope that your students retained the information for the end of the school year’s exam. What do you want your legacy to be? What will you teach that won’t be forgotten? Many people have called this the hidden curriculum. In a school, students learn 70% of what they learn in a classroom, the other 30% is school rules and socialization (Spies). When 30% of what a child is learning is nonacademic, it is important for teachers to model appropriate behavior and attitudes. To create a great hidden curriculum, it is important for teachers to reinforce positive attitudes and utilize positive behavior reinforcements. By creating a classroom of positive behavior and firm rules, a teacher can teach to this hidden curriculum in an indirect way that positively affects the students in his or her class. Another way a teacher can teach a lesson for life is through bullying prevention. Bullying is a huge problem in schools, and teachers are struggling more today with how to prevent it. It is important as teachers, especially a special education teacher like myself, to recognize who can be a target of bullying and respond by educating students about bullying. Cohn-Vargas recommends to create a dialogue between students and get students involved in bullying prevention through student-led antibullying assemblies and rallies. By preventing bullying and showing other students what they can do to stop bullying, you can create lessons for life in kindness towards others. The lessons we teach in school that are nonacademic shape students for life and it is important to create positive curriculums to emulate constructive environments to foster the values and beliefs that will shape them into better people years down the road.
The E stands for ethics. As professionals in teaching, it is important to always keep in mind the ethics surrounding yourself and your students. Catherine Ballard says that “if you are a part of a profession that is governed by a code of ethics, you must know and live by that code because others will hold you to that standard, and they will judge you by it” (Ballard). It is important to always understand this and take it to heart. The NEA published a code of ethics and Texas also posted the Texas Educator’s code of ethics. It is important to know these ethics to protect ourselves and also the rights of the students. One specific right that is protected which must always be thought of are the protections under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). This is the Federal law that protects students’ educational records. Teachers can be aware of this by locking up written gradebooks and signing out of computers with personal information on them. Another way a teacher can be ethical is by respecting student’s individual rights to freedom of speech and search and seizure. It is important for educators to recognize their boundaries as designated by the school, the state ethics codes, and the federal ethics codes. These different approaches make you an ethical teacher by protecting student’s rights and knowing the code of ethics for teachers.
In order to be the best teacher you can be, it is important to recognize the ways you can R.O.L.E. with it. Being the ideal teacher means being responsible, open, teaching lessons for life, and being ethical. You can be a responsible teacher by continuing your education and establishing professional PLNs that create a strong personal development program for you. You can be open by educating yourself on the benefits of a diverse classroom and puting your personal biases aside. You can teach lessons for life by establishing positive behavior support programs and preventing bullying in your classroom. You can be an ethical teacher by respecting your fellow teacher’s rights and student’s rights as protected by the code of ethics and FERPA. When all of these are put in practice in a classroom, it creates success, and the ideal environment for me as a teacher. Through this, you can only continue on the road to success to becoming better.
Ballard, C. (2003). What Does it Mean to be Ethical? Quest, 14-16.
Cohn-Vargas, B. (2012, April 03). 5 Ways to Stop Bullying and Move into Action. Retrieved December 10, 2016, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/stop-bullying-create-upstanders-becki-cohn-vargas
Episode 17: Teacher PLNs with Torrey Trust, Jeff Carpenter, & Dan Krutka [Audio blog review]. (2016, July 20). Retrieved from https://visionsofed.com/2016/07/20/episode-17-teacher-plns-with-torrey-trust-jeff-carpenter-dan-krutka/
Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). (n.d.). Retrieved December 11, 2016, from http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html
Guskey, T. R., & Yoon, K. S. (2009). What works in professional development. Phi Delta Kappan, 90(7), 495-500. Retrieved from http://outlier.uchicago.edu/computerscience/OS4CS/landscapestudy/resources/Guskey-and-Yoon-2009.pdf
Spies, C. (n.d.). Learning for life, learning through life: The hidden curriculum in early childho… Retrieved December 10, 2016, from http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2012/03/16/learning-life-learning-through-life-the-hidden-curriculum-early-childhood-education.
WISELI – University of Wisconsin-Madison. (2010). Benefits and Challenges of Diversity in Academic Settings [Brochure]. Author.