Friday, May 20, 2011

Week 31: Being The Teacher Your Students Need

When I first started thinking about becoming a teacher I emulated the teachers that inspired me. My image of “Mr. Tang” was amalgamation of educators who I looked up to. I borrowed quotes and teacher techniques from these master teachers but I found that this was not a very successful way to go. Things that worked with others teachers didn’t work for me, so I started to develop a different image of “Mr. Tang.”

This new image of myself as a teacher was a closer reflection of who I was outside of the classroom and this got me pretty far. I developed confidence in myself as a teacher and was able to let certain parts of my personality come up to my students while maintaining a professional decorum.

This year I noticed that “Mr. Tang” wasn’t being as successful across the board. For the first time I taught a wide variety of grades from 3rd to 8th and the teacher I wanted to be simply didn’t work for all of my kids. I remember earlier in the year teaching a great 7th grade class and then teaching a 3rd grade class and have it not go nearly as well because I was more concerned about being a certain kind of teacher than reacting to my students.

I started changing whom “Mr. Tang” was depending on the age and the class and thing started clicking. A fellow teacher perfectly articulated this saying “Teaching is not about being the teacher you want to be but being the teacher your students need you to be.”

How I want to be as a teacher is relevant but it seems more important that I can adjust to my students. Sometimes I feel like I get whiplash changing the tone of my voice, my posture and the way I explain things for different grades. Some of it is unconscious and some of it is very deliberate. The tough part is that is all needs to be genuine.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have goals about the kind of teacher that you want to be, however you shouldn’t that pursuit blind you from the students in front of you. I don’t want to be a teacher who has to reprimand kids with a harsh tone of voice. Too bad, I teach third grade, if I don’t express anger to them, they don’t know the boundaries.

I don’t want to be a teacher who calls people out for minor jokes because of their implications. Well, I’ve got to, I teach middle school students. If I don’t have talk with a student for making a sexist joke, he or she may emotionally damage one of their peers. I don’t want to be a teacher who gives kids bad grades, but if I don’t I’m doing a service to my students.

Being the teacher your students needs is especially hard when you don’t know what your students need you to be.  I still don’t know what kind of teacher some of my students need to be this late in the year. I may never figure that out but that doesn’t stop me from trying.

I've given up on trying to be "Mr. Tang."  Being a teacher isn't about "being" someone, it's about "being for."

Don't forget when you teach that the song really isn't about you.

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