Why do you want to be a teacher? A condescending question that has followed me since I made this choice at a young age. I believe that teaching can be most appropriately considered to be a lifestyle, not a mere forty-hour-a-week job; a teacher’s goals for their students encompass much more than passing grades and completed homework assignments. As professionals entrusted with the education of young minds, teachers must facilitate learning and growth academically, personally, and ethically. To no surprise, students come from various home life situations, ranging from economic to family structure. Each and every student is unique; they all come with an individual way of thinking and their own set of needs and gifts that are brought to the classroom. By providing a quality education to each individual in one’s classroom, a teacher equips children with the tools necessary for success in life.
In order to accomplish these lofty goals, I believe that it’s important first to establish a mutual respectful and honest rapport with students. Sound instruction will always be sound instruction, regardless of students’ racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic backgrounds. To a large extent, good teaching, which is teaching that is engaging, relevant, multicultural, and appealing to a variety of modalities and learning styles, works well with all children. Both high and low expectations can create self-fulfilling prophecies. It is vital for students to believe that they can achieve before they will risk trying; young people are astute at sensing whether their teachers believe they can succeed. By the same token, teachers must truly believe their students can achieve before they will put forth their best effort to teach them.
The teacher’s beliefs must be translated into instructional practices if students are to benefit: actions speak louder than attitudes. According to researcher Sandra Graham of the University of California–Los Angeles, when a teacher expresses sympathy over failure, students typically infer that the teacher thinks they are incapable of succeeding, not that they simply may not have tried hard enough. Similarly, when a teacher gives students lavish praise for completing a simple task or offers help before being asked for it, students infer that the teacher thinks they are stupid. It is most important to not only differentiate instruction for individual student, but differentiate the feedback and expectations for each student.
Based upon the fact that there is no more “general” education classrooms, each and every teacher must differentiate their instruction to best reach each student. It is no longer acceptable to only have one way of instructing a class, or assuming that each student will learn the same. Teachers must be sure to include a variety of teaching strategies, such as whole class instruction, turn and talks and guided practice. These different strategies will help to best reach each student’s learning needs. This process can be related to the philosophy of experiential learning. This philosophy is defined as “the process of learning through experience, and is more specifically defined as ‘learning through reflection on doing’. Its origins may be traced back to Aristotle in 350 BCE, but has been more recently further developed by philosopher Peter Senge in 1990. He wrote in his book The Fifth Discipline, “learning only has good effects when learners have the desire to absorb the knowledge.” Seated whole class instruction may be useful for some learners, but others may prefer to move around and interact with peers.