Brace yourself: My favorite teacher of all time was not a pirate.
Nor was he a champion or ninja or hacker.
He taught social studies, and he taught me about the laws of the United States of America. The curriculum was straightforward: Supreme Court cases whose decisions had a significant effect on the laws of the US.
The pedagogy was simple as well: present the case, explain the existing laws and constitutional significance, ask what we thought.
Then he listened.
I know he listened because he made everybody feel good about their responses and how they analyzed the situation. Nobody hesitated to share in “You and the Law,” because Minge (short for Mr. Mingeone, rhymes with hinge) always supported his students’ opinions. Always made us feel like we had made an excellent point.
Then with one comment, one point, one query, he would cause us to question our most fundamental beliefs. It was incredible.
I’m no Minge (I don’t even teach social studies), but that style informs my pedagogy to this day. It wasn’t about word walls or tickets in or tickets out or strategies or best practices or assessment anchors.
It was about getting to know his students and letting his students get to know him. In short, one-word short, in fact, it was about respect.
And that’s what Teach Like a Teacher is all about: respect. Teachers respecting their students. Teachers respecting each other. And yes, teachers respecting themselves.
I always thought I was a good teacher. Students like to be in my class. Some would choose to talk to me when they could be doing other things. I was even nominated for Who’s Who in American Education a few times back in the late 90s and early 2000s.
But now I’m judged by whether or not I posted the essential question for the lesson. Or if my students show growth on a standardized test they likely don’t care about. Or if one of my students yawns while an administrator is in my room for a 5×5 observation.
I used to feel good about what I did. Now I feel terrible. I feel guilty if I’m not planning or grading until the sun goes down. I feel like a failure if I’m not drilling down all summer to find the specific deficiencies in my students’ collective test scores.
Correct that. I felt terrible. I felt guilty. I felt like a failure.
From this moment forward, I’m going to feel great about working with kids, getting to know them, letting them get to know me, and showing them that I love each and every one of them just the way they are.
I’m going to delight in one simple result: allowing students to leave my classroom feeling better about themselves than they did when they walked in. And, hopefully, teach them a little something along the way.
That’s respect… That’s what Teach Like a Teacher is all about. Nobody needs a book to give them the 17 steps to being respectful. This isn’t a revolutionary idea. You don’t need to hack anything or innovate anything either.
No in-service necessary either.
And if you need words of encouragement, a laugh, or a spritz of motivation, Mr Middlesworth is here for you at Teach Like a Teacher.
I’m just a regular old teacher. No cape, no eye patch. I have no synonyms for innovation but I do want to do my job as best as I can.