How effective are you as a teacher?
That question leads me to consider the many factors that exist within a classroom as well as the definition of effectiveness. Does effectiveness mean your students pass? Or does it mean that your students loved you as a teacher and don’t want to go onto to the next grade because they had so much fun?
What needs to be front and center is if your students are learning? Did they have success academically? This is what is important because it is your job, but this cannot be achieved without other factors such as the emotional environment of your classroom, your skill as a teacher, your passion for learning and the motivation you provide, as well as how you assess success within the classroom.
Now, I have been teaching for 30+ years and I still question if I was effective. I use assessments to show growth, but I also triangulate that data with other factors. Key for me is the relationship I make with my students who often stay with me for several years. I believe as I did my first year that as a teacher I need to truly know the student as a person and a learner. For me to be effective I need to know what the student will respond to and what they will shut down with. Then I use observations, conversations and their work to display their growth. I also consider their personality.
For example, I work with two fifth grade boys who unfortunately I only get to see once a week. One day, one of the boy’s grandmother was on cafeteria duty and we stopped to chat. She told me about a book he had to read and he could not read it. This made me stop to question why and wonder how she defines “can’t read”. So, I took into consideration his personality and asked the teacher to send them down with the book.
They came to me, book in hand, whining how the whole class HAD to read. Of course, the book was “stupid”. I asked them to tell me about the book and they read a bit aloud to me. As I questioned, listened and talked with them about this “stupid” book, I realized that this book is not of interest to them. It is a wonderful book and read, but it is not in their reading zone. They shut down.
So, would you say using this book was effective teaching? How will those boys be assessed? Will their heart be involved in the work that they needed to complete? All of these questions can be answered with one word—No.
To be an effective teacher you cannot expect your students to jump through hoops that you think they should jump through because the basal series said so. (Yes, they still use basal series.) You can’t shut the door on their ability to be successful. During the elementary years, we need to open the door so the students can build their identity and self-esteem as learners. Don’t keep giving the students material that will turn them off to working, exploring, and questioning. Open the door to learning.
So, as the year comes to its end, I reflect upon the effectiveness of my teaching. Did I help my students develop as readers? Did I help them strengthen their self-esteem, their self-confidence, and their love of reading? They will not overcome all their struggles just because they had a teacher who cared, but the impact from a caring teacher will be lasting as they continue on their journey to learn.