Teachers Need to Hear…

What do you think?

Teachers need to hear that what they think is important more often. Some are never asked at all, and that’s unfortunate—too many good ideas are lost that way. Certainly, in a week at school, an administrator or someone (more later) can touch base with all educators in some way, and ask their opinion about something specifically important to the school. If the answer requires more thought, well a simple “get back to me” with a definite time deadline works fine. This really should be a face-to-face question, too. Think of it as a teacher/student relationship for the administrator. The administrator has a class of educators, and that class is the entire school.

In your lesson today… I really liked…

Teachers need to hear about their teaching far more often than a planned observation. Observations really prove a teacher can prepare and demo a planned observation lesson, rather than handle a real working lesson with students—with spontaneity. The only way to do this is for administrators to become comfortably welcomed into every classroom. And the only way for that to happen is that visiting classrooms, teachers and students on a regular and consistent basis happens. Too often administrators are tied to their office desks and never get to say what they liked about a lesson, because they never get out to see it—and teachers never get to hear the words they need to hear.

Have you thought of this?

Teachers need to hear more than hello, how are you, and have a nice day. There is no reason why each teacher, each week, shouldn’t hear, “Have you thought of this?” Most teachers won’t know more than they know unless someone takes the time and thought to share something new, or different. It doesn’t have to be something huge either. It could be as simple as suggesting starting each class with an essential question and ending each class with its answer. Small suggestions are invaluable, and can make more than a teacher’s day. If an educator never addresses his/her students by name, just a simple suggestion to try, is a friendly conversational way to say everyone likes hearing his/her name. If administrators are comfortably accepted into the classroom environment, those suggestions are welcomed and teaching helpful, rather than seen as purely criticism. As in anything, we take for granted so much, and it’s quite possible that some teaching fundamentals may have been missed, or lost somewhere along the journey. Teachers need to hear, “Have you thought of this?”

It’s OK not to know.

Teachers really need to hear what they tell their students, too. It’s OK not to know something, and it’s OK to share that you don’t know something. This is especially true when teaching with technology. The teachers who have figured things out for themselves, and are considered the school’s instructional technology superstars are not the majority—at least not yet. The majority of teachers need to hear that it is OK not to know all the ins and outs of teaching kids with technology. Those are the teachers we need to embrace, and those are the teachers that will lead the education change—and it may all start with understanding that it’s OK not to know everything. The next step for everyone is different, but the next step needs to be taken by all—whatever that is. You need to understand and engage in learning what you don’t know.

Teachers need to hear that it’s OK to move on.

Teachers need to hear that it is OK to start at their teaching beginning, whatever that is, but it is not OK to stay there. If a teacher begins teaching at a whiteboard in a very direct-lecturing way, and does it well—then that beginning is fine. But if that teacher hasn’t moved from that first step after a few years of teaching, that teacher needs to hear that it is OK to move on, and also hear some suggestions along the way—in a consistent and helpful way. Again, if administrators are comfortably accepted in classrooms and what they say and suggest is seen as helpful, then the snapshot of a teachers first year shouldn’t look like the snapshot of the following years—and that goes for educators at every level of expertise.

Ken Royal

Ken Royal is an educator with 34 years of classroom/school and instructional technology teaching experience, as well as a blogger on all things education and education technology. Teaching accomplishments include: 4-time district teacher of the year, Connecticut Middle School Teacher of the Year, as well as Bill and Melinda Gates award for Technology School of Excellence. He is an Education storyteller. Follow @KenRoyal on Twitter.
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