An Outstanding Teacher

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Most people leave school having a favorite teacher. This person was someone who stood out to them above the rest and had a positive influence on their lives. Some people’s opinions of an outstanding teacher may vary slightly; however, I believe most times all centralize around certain concepts. In my opinion, the difference between a great teacher and an outstanding teacher all comes down to the relationships formed. An outstanding teacher is one who listens just as much as they talk, if not more. From experience, I have discovered that I can learn just as much from my students as they can from me. Being receptive and open to students and their input builds trust as well as respect. An outstanding teacher knows his/her students, focuses on their individual strengths and builds on weaknesses. Because of this knowledge, teachers are able to demand the best from each student and make individual adaptations to nurture student success by first meeting at the student’s unique level.

An outstanding teacher is someone who not only teaches, but demonstrates, generosity, mastery, independence, and belonging (Circle of Courage). They are enthusiastic about what they are teaching and make learning both engaging and fun. An outstanding teacher models self-reflection and self-advocacy and assists students in doing the same. They believe in each and every student and facilitate a safe, welcoming, and judgement-free classroom. Inclusive practices and a variety of teaching styles are part of this teacher’s professional repertoire and get used on a daily basis. An outstanding teacher is not just aware, but utilizes to benefit learning, the fact that each student has their own personal story and brings “baggage” and experiences (good and bad) to school each day with them. An outstanding teacher uses their passion, leadership skills, and flexibility to foster student learning. This teacher is resourceful and collaborative, as well as, organized (but allows for organized chaos). This teacher relates curriculum to everyday life, is fair and honest, and makes his/her students feel valued, important and smart. An outstanding teacher has a sense of humour; is relatable; never gives up helping; and recognizes the importance of a positive school community, consequently is involved in many school activities. The reason a teacher is outstanding is because they value professional development and educational growth as well as demonstrate lifelong learning.

Internship- the uphill battle

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Why would someone want to be a teacher? Kids are needy, and draining! I had a total of 65 students who I saw every day and was responsible for connecting with and ensuring they were learning the set curricular outcomes. This is madness- I felt like a soldier crawling through the mud being shot at. Everyday I was bombarded with comments/questions such as “I forgot my books today”; I was too busy to do my homework”; and “will this be for marks?”. Half of my students, although in high school, came to class without paper and a pencil! How was I supposed to teach my students when they were so disinterested in school and had their cell-phones glued to their hands! This very difficult task was only made more difficult when I had a minimum of 3 kids absent every day (who I am responsible for catching up).

The first month of internship was not too bad since I was only teaching one class (Physical Science 20). I was getting my feet wet and learning the all important knowledge of building student rapport and creating an engaging class atmosphere. While this was the easiest part of internship, it still was not easy. Trying to learn and work with 28 unique personalities was a feat I was anxious about. I can’t force my students to listen to me let alone like me; however, from pre-internship, I remembered it is much easier to work with my students instead of against them. Within the first month I became quite comfortable in front of my class and had come to enjoy teaching them in period 5 (which I learned is a time when all students are about done for the day and ready to go home). Things were looking up until…. BAM!

The next 2 months I quickly picked up 2 Science 10 classes and a Chem 30. My confidence in my abilities was taking a huge hit as I was never usually happy with how each day ended up going- there was something I either forgot to let my students know or was unable to check in/deal with some of my struggling students. I didn’t feel adequate or experienced enough to give my students everything they needed. My cooperating teacher once told me that as a teacher, only half of the time is actually spent teaching- I came to understand this quickly. The rest of the time I am tying up loose ends and dealing with my students’ problems/struggles. I quickly learned that mental health is a HUGE problem in schools- I had 3 students miss a week of class because of hospitalized anxiety. Students who are dealing with such intense issues are not concerned with learning things such as the makeup of an atom, and understandably. I could not help all of my students in the ways they needed help. Planning and teaching lessons was the easy part-juggling students, and their parents, diverse needs was a huge challenge. Although I am educated in Inclusive Ed. (which helped me reach a lot of my students with educational needs), it did not prepare me to take on the other needs present.

When I had started handing back classes I had more time to reflect on the events that happened during the day. While I was talking with some colleagues, one had told me of a simple, yet effective, quote: “big deal, little deal”. During my 3 week block it had seemed like everything that happened was a big deal- reflecting on this, I can look back to to some events that I had treated as a big deal when in fact they were little deals. Having 3 of my students need to leave early for basketball isn’t really a big deal… I realized that. While teaching is full of stress, I was creating more stress than I needed to by holding myself to a perfect standard. I heard another colleague say “you can only teach as well as you know how to, as you do more, you learn more”. The experience I had gained from internship has enabled me to grow in my teaching abilities. I am a much better teacher now than what I was at the beginning of internship.  The curriculum is the predicable part of teaching, you can plan for it and know what to expect. Students, however, bring so many unknowns- I had to learn to quickly think on my feet. It became a regular occurrence to do quick problem solving with things that were “little deals” (for example, a student forgetting to bring books to class).

While my students were the most stressful and draining part of teaching, they were also the best part. I absolutely love my students and looked forward to seeing them in class everyday. While their problems, whether family related or school related, complicated lessons, I always wanted to try and help them in any way I can. This was draining. It was exhausting. It equated to most of my stress while teaching. However, if I was able to help any of my students, even if it was in small ways, I felt like I had done my job. While I understand I will never be able to solve all of my students’ problems, I will be able to help them in small ways. For example, a student of mine was upset over some conflict at home- there was an exam scheduled for that day so, instead of making them write while their thoughts are somewhere else, I rescheduled the exam for the next day. Working with students ensures you get the best work out of them.

Teaching is draining and exhausting and hard work. Learning can be hard, and messy, and take more time than planned. However…knowing I have given hope to students who may have been overlooked is an amazing feeling. The excitement I get from seeing a struggling student ace an exam is way more important than the countless hours tutoring that student, giving them a chance. This feeling is only added to the already rewarding feeling of seeing the pride in that student’s face when they have been able to actually succeed in something. If working hard means giving a student a chance at success and increasing their confidence, then sign me up!

 

ECS 410- Demonstration of Learning Interview

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My philosophy of assessment and evaluation has only started to develop. From my Education Assessment class, as well as pre-internship, my philosophy has grown and developed drastically from where it has started. I believe grades should be as close to a representation of a student’s understanding as possible. That means, not giving zeros for assignments and exams not completed. This is not an accurate evaluation of their knowledge and therefore should not be shown as one. Although this is a great concept, it is not always easy to accomplish. Because of this, I believe the teacher should try their hardest to get the proper grade of the students and, if this can’t happen, to simply omit this mark (so long as there are other grades that assess the outcome). Also, I believe that every lesson should include some form of assessment- primarily being diagnostic, and formative. This allows students to have feedback and learn from their mistakes which ultimately increases their opportunity for success. One of the most important concepts of my philosophy is that less emphasis should be spend on grades, and more should be spent on the actual learning. This is something a lot of people struggle to understand; however, from experience I’ve learned that it is more important to teach life-long learning rather than memorization of facts. I’ve also learned the importance of giving students options and variety in the way they show their knowledge. This allows all students equal opportunities to succeed as well as help develop areas students struggle with.

I used various methods of assessment during pre-internship. I used a lot of formative assessment to gauge how well my students were learning the material I taught. This was very important because a concept I thought would take a few days, ended up taking a week. Without the formative assessment I would have moved on and most of them wouldn’t have learned the important concept. After I was sure they knew the material, I used summative assessment to document how well they understood it. For my formative assessment I did a few EXIT slips, thumbs up/down, discussion, and checking assignments/homework. For my summative evaluations I did a quiz, lab handout, and an exam. I had spent a lot of time differentiating my quiz and exam by using simpler language, helpful reminders, student choice, and graphics. I noticed a lot more of my students had done better with the adaptations than they had initially when I didn’t include them.

I felt that my philosophy had really developed through this experience whether it was re-emphasizing the importance of concepts or learning through mistakes. While I was there, I did end up giving two zeros to two of my students. They had only showed up to 3 classes during the three weeks that I was there. I realized in those situations the problems absences create. Both students I knew, just from those three days, were capable of getting good marks if they only spent the time learning the material. I always made sure to have some form of assessment in my lessons and this I found to really help me when planning for the next day and understanding what my students understood and what needed to be re-taught. I did also find it hard to really develop my philosophy when I was working with the conditions set up by my coop. While I thought he was a great teacher, I would have done things a little differently when setting up the grading scheme. I felt there was too much weight on the exams and not much chance for students to progress and demonstrate their knowledge of the outcomes in ways other than exams. When I am in my internship, this is an area I hope to really challenge myself. I would like to present a lot more student choice with regards to the way they demonstrate their knowledge as well as allow for students to progress in meeting the outcomes- this may mean evaluating students more than once on certain outcomes. While I do realize this will take a lot more time to develop, I am excited to try and see how much this helps my students to succeed.

Three things I learned about assessment/evaluation from pre-internship:

  1. Absences are very frustrating. I was shocked to see how often students were absent from class and had trouble keeping up with what students had missed. This was especially tricky when students missed a day in which summative evaluation took place. When I had 6 students who missed the quiz, and 8 different students who needed to hand in their lab handout that was to be graded, it was very difficult to stay on top of students and accommodate all their needs. This is important to my teaching practice because this is a problem that will more than likely always exist. I need to come up with a strategy that better addresses this problem and takes stress away from both me and my students.
  2. There’s no reason to make tests super formal. Although its great to have a common layout to the exam, there was no reason to use higher vocabulary and scientific jargon. I found I was much more successful when I directly related the exams to instances that happened in previous lessons. While I completely agree in critical thinking, I don’t see the point in making an exam tougher than it needs to be- and in ways that don’t contribute to the learning outcome. I also learned how long it took to make exams and learned the care that is needed to ensure the test is meeting its objective in assessing the outcomes. This is important because in subjects like science and math, tests and quizzes cannot be entirely avoided- and nor should they. It will be very important to further develop my test-making skills as it often reflects how well my students will do on that exam.
  3. Cheating is more common that I had initially thought. The first week I was there I had caught a student cheating on a quiz. This both surprised and upset me. I felt like I had not prepared that student enough to feel confident in their own skills and was also disappointed that such pressure was put on grades that that student felt the need to cheat. I have learned that it’s a tough situation to handle, especially when this was a summative assessment. On my next exam, I had made two different copies. This was a preventative way of not having to deal with students copying. By doing this, I ended up catching a different student cheating but did not have to discipline them as their marks were the ones to be impacted. They ended up getting a lot of questions wrong which resulted in a poor mark (they were not allowed a re-write in this case). This is important because my classroom management philosophy stresses the importance of taking preventative measures rather than always having to deal with the problems. By making two different copies of the test, not allowing cell-phones, and having the class spread out, I didn’t have to worry about disciplining a student for cheating on an exam.

Pre-internship! The ups, the downs, and the inbetweens

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To start off with, I will say one of the most obvious things I’ve learned from pre-internship is that time changes and the hours in a day turn into merely minutes. I was so focused on pre-internship that I forgot to post to my blog- so, instead I am going to give a summary of the things I learned and experienced in my 3 weeks of pre-internship.

1. The comic I started with… that’s literally how I felt. I was either at school learning and planning, or somewhere else and thinking about learning and planning. This is a very scary thought because I only taught 2 class –> how will I do it when I have 4-5 classes to teach?! I look forward to internship when I get to find out.

2. Teachers really are underpaid. I learned this from simply being in the Cooperative Room with all the science teachers. I cannot tell you there was a solid 5 minutes of silence. There was always students coming to the door needing help or trying to catch up on missed work, etc. The roles teachers have to take on to meet the needs of students is unthinkable: from nurse, to parent, librarian, accountant, cook, leader, team member, and so on. I constantly witnessed teachers stepping out from their role as an educator to whatever they needed to be to meet the needs of students.

3.  I also learned I need to buy a foot-massager and a pair of good shoes. Not only do teachers spend an awful amount of time on their feet, they also have to think on their feet! There was two times in the three weeks I was there that an assembly or other unexpected event took place that ruined the lesson I had set up. I had to think on my feet quickly to make it work. This is something I’ve come to realize can’t be taught, but rather learned through experience.

4. Relationships are crucial. At the start of my three weeks, my students were very shy and unresponsive to questions I asked. After about the first week I noticed the comfort level of both me and my students to increase drastically. I truly believe that the moments I had to simply talk with my students and build a relationship with them was the only reason some of them listened to my lessons and did what I had asked of them. This is an area I hope to grow more in until I can have great relationships with every one of my students.

5. Patience truly is a virtue. I would classify myself as a fairly patient person; however, there was one situation I was surprised how annoyed I became. I was doing a demonstration in a Superlab (a huge lab that allows multiple classes to use at the same time) to my class of 38 (yes 38… that’s not a typo unfortunately) when another class came in and started doing their experiments. The one other time I had my class do an experiment in the Superlab I had no problems with other classes using the space as well; however, because I was doing a demonstration I was also having a conversation with my students about the concepts for the day. They could not all hear or see me and were completely distracted to what the other class was doing. To be fair, they were doing something which involved fire and colour change which is wayyyyy more interesting that seeing how fast we could dissolve an alka seltzer tablet in water, but they needed to know this for their assignments and test! I finished my demonstrations and we went back to the classroom, but I was very surprised when reflecting at how my patience completely left me in that situation.

6. Concepts you think are easy… may not be so easy. My pre-internship partner had taught balancing chemical reactions in one day. I thought this was really reasonable and so when it came time for me to teach it to my class expected about twice as long, but 3 days max. Yeah… this simple lesson turned into a week and a half. Classroom diversity is completely in control of how fast or slow students pick up on certain concepts. I feel like we had taught it with a similar approach; but, her approach met the needs of her students where my approach left a lot of them more confused than ever. I felt like I had failed my students because of this, but came to realize it just meant I had to alter my teaching methods to ensure all students had the opportunity to learn it.

7. Learning can’t always be fun. Before this experience, I was delusional at how easy it was to make every lesson and concept fun. I still believe students learn better when the lesson is fun, but there are those concepts for which that just can’t happen. I had brainstormed for multiple hours on ways of teaching types of reactions in a way other than direct instruction. Although they could do an experiment with it, that still did not ensure they were learning the concepts that were being experimented on. In the end, I had to give students a brief, and boring, slideshow on the information present. Not everyone likes taking notes, but not everyone likes being in the lab either. From this, I’ve learned that the best way to go about it is to just provide multiple methods of instruction. While some of these may be boring to some students, other students need it to understand and move on.

I absolutely loved my time pre-interning and can say this experience has allowed me to grow in my teaching career. I am feeling more prepared for internship, but also more reflective on areas I know I plan to improve. My Coop, students, and the school itself has been detrimental to my professional development and for that I am very thankful. I will end off with another important lesson I learned during my three weeks summed up by John Dewey:

“Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes.”

Relationships in Action

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After being in pre-internship for one and a half weeks, I have a little more experience in my inquiry topic. I have only started to develop relationships this week as I’ve noticed it takes a while for the students to trust you and understand who you are. However, my coop teacher is someone whose philosophy incorporates relationships into the success of learning. So while I work on the basics of forming those relationships, I am able to see their impact as they’re developed.Many students who are often labelled as “troubled” students perform a lot better when they are connected to the material and instructor. A problem I have came across is maintaining that relationship when there’s a need for disciplinary actions. For example, one of my students benefits from having that relationship with the teacher to learn better; however, he is also a student breaking my cell-phone policy quite often. I am finding it hard to maintain that positive relationship when I need to continually give warnings and take his phone away. I predict that as the relationship gets further developed he’ll want to listen to my instructions and expectations because I have seen him act differently with my coop teacher. I have already found relationship to be crucial to classroom atmosphere and overall learning.I look forward to having more time during internship to really dive into this topic.

Technology is not just a trend

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Technology is getting to be not only beneficial, but required, for learning to flourish. With today’s apps and resources, research suggests students’ learning has increased as well as productivity. It’s getting to be essential for teacher’s to have knowledge about technology and its use in the classroom. There is multiple professional development opportunities available for educators so long as the motivation and interest is there. It’s important educators stay ahead of their students with the up and coming trends of technology so they can prepare and teach netiquette that’s included. The education system has had to shift tremendously with the “trend” of technology and so will the teachers.

With all the benefits of of technology in the classroom, there is also the struggles. For one, not all students have access to technology, which places them in an awkward situation. Another struggle teachers will have to be prepared to deal with is the distraction technology can bring. One of the ways teachers can combat this is by educating their students about the proper uses of technology and setting up regulations for using it in the classroom. One other struggle that may occur is a more difficult situation to handle- this would be the data amount allotted to each school. A lot of times, schools get new tablets or computers and aren’t able to use them properly because of poor wifi. The only way technology can benefit the education system, is if it has adequate wifi to run off of. Technology is essential to learning…because of this, teachers need to be aware of the things that work against it.

Broadening my teaching philosophy

“When we give students the impression that we value the right answer more than critical thinking, we may drive them to take shortcuts and cheat.”

~Cris Tovani

 This is a very interesting quote as I can relate easily to it and find it is very true. When we give students the impression we only care about right answers, that’s all they will focus on. This is opposite approach to science that I would like to take. Science concepts that seemed so concrete decades ago has been proven wrong with new technology- this is why it is much more important to focus on critical thinking and inquiry than it is to right answers. This leads into one of the topics covered in last weeks class: inquiry. 

Inquiry-based learning is the foundation of science education. Based on previous experiene, inquiry is the best way to get students engaged and motivated about certain concepts. To use inquiry-based learning efficiently and appropriately, it needs to be scaffolded using the 4 levels of inquiry. The first level of inquiry is confirmation. This level students are given the question, procedure, and know the results in advance. This is to get students familiar with the process of inquiry. The second level of inquiry is known as structured. This allows a little more freedom as students are presented with a teacher-provided question and procedure of investigation but need to find the result on their own. The third level is guided- this is the level I would like to get all of my students to as it is a big step of learning to think critically. Students are provided a question but must come up with their own procedure to find the result. This is shifting the classroom from simply doing experiments and not being required to think, to setting up students to think for themselves and gain problem solving skills necessary for life. The final level of inquiry is open. This is a level that may not be reached in highschool, but is the goal of inquiry. Students come up with their own questions, procedure, and results. Teachers are simply present to ask guiding questions and get the student thinking critically. According to the textbook “Comprehension and Collaboration” there are 4 steps that make up inquiry-based learning: immerse (building background knowledge; finding topics), investigate (develop questioning; search and research), coalesce ( refine research, synthesize information), and finally ‘go public’ (share learning, take action by activism, awareness, and aid) (2009). Inquiry-based learning on a large scale should not be overused; however, inquiry can be applied to everyday lessons to help scaffold. 

Another topic last week was around student contracts and student opinion. Similar to inquiry-based learning, we dove into the importance of providing students options for showing their evidence of learning. When students are able to learn/show evidence of a curriculum outcome the way they want, they are more highly motivated to do their best. One of the examples I’ve been shown for student choice is choiceboards (like a tic-tac-toe board) and the 100 point projects (students have a list of choices that are made up of different points and must choose enough assignments to reach 100 points). With these I’ve seen student contracts used. These are usually documents, similar to rubrics, that specify what type of work completed gets the corresponding marks. This shifts the responsability to primarily the student. 

Finally, I watched a video by Rich Wormeli about Redos, Retakes, and Do-Overs. This helped open my mind to redos and see importance of them. I was always that student wh did good on tests the first time and got mad when students were able to re-take a test, after failing, and do better than me. After watching this video I know how to chnge that for my teaching profession. I do believe students should  be able to show progress and grow in their understanding- this philosophy supports the use of redos. This is a very delicate process that can leave some students very upset and respecting you less if they find you unfair. One of the ways of going about this making sure the student had to work and put in efort before the redo- an example of this is requiring students to redo their practice worksheets before being able to redo the exam; or, creating a student contract of the way they are going to prepare differently for the redo such as creating flashcards and studying well in advance. I think its important to not include that initial mark, the one they did poorly on, if they put in the work and effort to redo and use the new mark to replace the first. 

Is Wikipedia lying to you?

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With over 3 million English entries, Wikipedia is a popular source for gaining information. Often we are reminded to think about the internets reliability. An example I’ll use is with twerking/fire fail. I had first watched this when it first came out and completely believed it was true without even second guessing. I guess I believed there are always people who want to try the “trend of the week” and not everyone can do it (an obvious example of this, is the cinnamon challenge). However, after I had watched the true version of the video and realized it was a prank and was shocked. The video had gotten 15 million views… This is the perfect example of how, not just in the technology world, but all the time one needs to question the validity of what they’re reading or watching.

After this thought had crossed my mind I had instantly started questioning where I usually get my information from. Although many teachers instruct you not to… I often find myself using Wikipedia because of the simple and easy way they display the information. I had heard both sides about the accuracy of Wikipedia and just decided I’d believe Wikipedia had to be mostly true. However, after this lesson today my curiosity was pushed further. I had googled quite a few articles about Wikipedia and it’s validity. The funny part was, the first website to popup was of course Wikipedia with an article about Reliability of Wikipedia. There was one site that actually talked about a study done specifically on this subject. The study had stated that with a comparison between Wikipedia and Encyclopaedia Britannica, both had contained 4 serious errors when 47 articles were reviewed. I thought this was pretty eye opening due to the fact that both have very different understandings of creditability.

After this research, the majority of articles I had read all pointed to a similar approach: always read more than one resource on the subject so you are able to cross-reference and find differences. No matter if you’re even using Encyclopaedia Britannica over Wikipedia it is always suggested you cross-references another source.

My final thought about this subject would be that I do now feel confident using Wikipedia as I usually always have more than one reference anyways. Information is always a good thing to have, but no matter where it comes from, you should always spend time questioning its validity.

The importance of the first day

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I know from previous experiences that the first day in a classroom is one of the most important. Because of this, I looked into some good icebreakers that I could use in pre-internship, internship, and when I have my own classroom. These icebreakers will be the start to the student-teacher relationships that promote learning. The activities listed will help the teacher know the students better as well as help get rid of any awkwardness within the students that is present on the first day.

1. M&Ms– have students pull out a M&M and, depending on the color, answer a questions (red- something about yesterday; orange- something you do well; yellow- something about your childhood; blue- something you learned last week; brown- something you can’t live without; green- something you watch/listen to)

2. Sticky help– Give students one sticky note, have them write down what they need to learn best, then post these on a large piece of paper for later reference.

3. Balloon Pop (requries a SMARTboard)-  This is a game where students through a soft bean bag at the SMARTboard. Wherever it hits, it will open a question about themselves.

4. Two Truths, One Lie- students write out two true statements about themselves and one that is a lie. They tell them to the class and when one person guesses which is a lie, it becomes their turn.

5. List Matcher– The teacher provides a category (such as breakfast cereals) and small groups of students true to list 10 items they believe are on the teacher’s list.

6. Blackout Bingo– Provide each student a handout that contains a table with various statements (such as: I like to shop; I have a pet cat; I have traveled outside the country). Students go around, asking these questions and filling in the names of fellow students

7. Two Extremes– The teacher provides a list of extreme opposites and students find the two people who fit the description (ex. likes chocolate/likes vanilla, likes rap/likes country)

What makes a good teacher?

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With pre-intership coming up I’ve been doing more and more research as to what will make me a good teacher. In my school years I’ve seen good teachers and I’ve seen bad teachers. It was sometimes obvious why some teachers were more preferred than others but sometimes it was more complicated. So, based on my research and previous experience I decided to make a short list of things to bring into the classroom as a reminder of how I should approach teaching:

1. Be yourself. Not all of the good teachers were the same and it was their unique characteristics that made them all great in their own way. Students can spot a fake. In order to gain students’ trust and respect, you have to be comfortable with yourself and establish your own teachings style.

2. Be Flexible. The classroom is never a constant. The announcements go off; the band kids have to leave; there’s an assembly taking place. As a teacher, you have to be flexible and accepting of the side-tracks your class may take. A good teacher is able to roll with the punches and adjust his/her schedule to work.

3. Have humour. A teacher who is able to laugh and have fun is much more approachable and relate-able for students. Although this can’t be taken to the extreme where it takes away from the learning of the students; however, it should be taught that learning is fun and interesting.

4. Be a role model. In some circumstances, students are with teachers more than they are with their own parents. Teachers are with youth at a very crucial age where students are figuring themselves out. As an educator, it is my job to be the best role model for my students as possible so that they always have at least one good example to learn from.

5. Be forgiving. Every day is a new day. As a teacher it is my job to allow for equal opportunity for my students. To do this I must take away biases and forgive any pass discrepancies. Everyone has bad day, don’t bring them forward.

A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning.
– Brad Henry