Sometimes improving as a teacher means looking at both the great and not-so-great teachers.
This was the key message for keynote speaker Todd Whitaker, who spoke at Wolf Creek Public School’s 21 CTLS learning symposium Sept. 30.
The full event was held Sept. 29 and 30 at Ponoka Secondary Campus with break out sessions for teachers and support staff Sept. 30 highlighting technology in the classroom.
Whitaker set the stage in his keynote pointing out that one of the best ways to get better as a teacher is to study others. “You have to study both the effective and ineffective people.”
If teachers haven’t been in each other’s classrooms they won’t know who is a great teacher and who is a poor teacher.
The message he wanted to get across was based on a book he wrote called What Great Teachers do Differently. While every teacher wants to be great, they may not know how; one reason why seeking input is so important.
He added that Twitter is one of the best tools available to seek feedback and gain more knowledge of a new subject. There is no obligation to reply or respond but experts in the field are willing and able to share their knowledge, which in turn benefits the teacher making the request.
“How many of you would like to start with something besides a blank piece of paper?” asked Whitaker.
Becoming a great teacher
The journey to becoming a great teacher can be found in classrooms where there are already great teachers, says Whitaker. “Did you know in a great teacher’s classroom every student thinks they’re the favourite?”
“Average people don’t know how to be great…Do you know how to be great? You learn by other people,” he offered.
Something people may not realize, however, is that a great teacher has the same fears and concerns as others, they just don’t show it. Whitaker pointed out that if teachers are also afraid to take risks then they are creating followers, rather than leaders, in their students.
He said every person has a choice in their lives and they are the ones who can choose to affect people in a positive manner. “Ineffective people have no idea how they come across.”
The trick is in making the effort. What makes a teacher effective is them knowing how they come across and that their teaching is being received.
If someone is ineffective on a regular basis, Whitaker asked what is their attitude like if they’re having a bad day? He wants to change that motivation.
“Our goal in schools is not to reflect society. Our goal in schools is to cultivate society,” explained Whitaker.
One of the ways teachers can help their peers is by ignoring ineffective behaviour such as whining or complaining. Whitaker suggests the best way to do that is by treating those individuals like they are effective people.
Once those individuals realize whining doesn’t work on their peers anymore they will stop. Whitaker believes by empathizing or listening, people are actually accelerating the issue.
He advises a positive attitude and encouraging behaviour with difficult people, which in turn changes the focus. “People are the problem. People are the solution.”
There are three behaviours that Whitaker advocates to help teachers in their quest to become great teachers:
Never argue: Whitaker suggests it is the individual who controls how many arguments they have in a day and they have the choice to stop them.
Never yell: Yelling becomes ineffective. “The students we’re tempted to yell at have been yelled at so much.”
Don’t use sarcasm: Sarcasm is one of the most humiliating ways to treat a person, stated Whitaker. He said the ones that are laughing at a sacrastic joke are doing so because they don’t want to be next.