This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the STEA Fall Conference in Nashville, TN. STEA stands for Student Tennessee Education Association and it prepares students for future teaching. This was my first conference I attended for insight in professional development in the education realm. I sat through the sessions absorbing and writing all of the information being thrown at me. Three key ideas I took away were: you will always have a weakness; teach to the standard; take data constantly for all of your students.
1) You will always have a weakness.
It is hard for us to be content with the idea of having a weakness. As a future educator, you strive to be as close to perfection as you can. The reality of it is that someone will always be better than you at something in your life. The first step to being a professional is realizing that you have flaws. When you discover that flaw, you need to go to someone on your teacher team who strives in that area. Mr. Tarno did an activity with us that supports the theory. Each table group had a strength and a weakness sheet that we were asked to fill out as a collective group. After a few minutes, he took up each table's weakness sheet. Then he started asking who felt confident in patience, classroom management, encouragement, etc. Hands started going up for each weakness. Visually, I was able to see that I might currently not have classroom management down, but a girl in my school group did. She struggles with patience, and that is something I strive in. I learned that teaching is a team sport. As a teacher, we have to communicate in order to be effective. I will not master everything, but I will continue to keep going. (J. "Brock" Tarno, Behavior Coordinator for Henry Country Schools, was the speaker for this specific topic.)
2) Teach to the standard.
During one of my professional development sessions, I learned how to unpack the TEAM rubric. This session taught me to not teach to the test, but to teach to the standard. I have heard time after time teachers complaining about how they have to teach to the test. We do not have to teach to the test. Instead, we need to teach to the standard that names where we are headed. The objectives lead us to how we will get to the standard. Pinterest is notorious for finding creative activities, but how often do they actually support the standard. We need to start with the standard, then find an activity. Often we confuse activity with accomplishment. We need to ask ourselves, "Am I teaching on purpose?" If teaching is uncomfortable for us, then it is right for the children. Being a teacher is not for you, it is for the children. While teaching to the standards and rubrics, we need to ask a question that engages the mind and the mouth. With all of this in mind, we need to the teach the student first, then teach the standard. What I mean is that you will be in a classroom with 7th-grade bodies that have a 3rd-grade math mentality. You have to take that knowledge of them, and bring them up to level. It will not be easy, and you will be stressed out. Although, teaching is one of the most rewarding jobs. In order to be rewarded, you have to put in the work. Assess the standard, make a plan of action, communicate the plan, implement the plan, and self-asses. Support your students, and be the example of who you want your students to be. Teach what is given to you as a guidance, and watch your students exceed their own and your expectations. (Dr. John Tiller, a professor at Tennesse State University, was the speaker for this session.)
3) Take data in most situations for your students.
You need to take data of where your students are performing according to the standards. Reflect on the good, the bad, and the mediocre. Keep data of things to focus on with certain students. In order to build relationships with your students, you have to work on building them. You have to know who they are, and where they perform on the spectrum. We are not in the classroom to control children, but we can contain their behavior by taking data. Documentation of students is important. When you document everything, you also leave a paper trail. A benefit of keeping data is the possibility of eliminating unconscious bias. The more you keep up with your students the better education you are providing to them.
Those three points are just a few of the key ideas of teaching that was presented to me at the STEA Fall Conference. For now, I have a desire and passion for teaching because I believe that teachers are heroes and that is who I want to be. Teachers present on their feet, not at their seats. Teachers are thrown shade by test scores, other teachers, negative ideas and opinions. Yet, they manage to keep going and working in the best efforts for their students. They have degrees too, so they might as well hang those up in their classroom like dentists hang their degrees up in the operation rooms. Teachers need to quit apologizing for being JUST teachers because they are so much more. Students crave structure no matter how young or how old, and teachers provide that for them. Their job title encompasses more than just providing a grade level academic education, but they teach manners, social skills, how to be a person, street smarts, etc. It may be their students, but they are someone else's child. Teachers are professionals.