What Kind of Teacher Are You? A Question Revisited
Nine years ago, I wrote a short article to explain to myself what it meant to be a Responsive Classroom teacher (which you can read in its entirety below). Here are some thoughts I have now as I revisit these ideas through the lens of my experience teaching since then, mostly in a different grade level.
More than ever before, it is important to teach my students the social skills needed to be successful in school and life. Both appropriate assertion and empathy are critical life skills, yet often are found lacking in the role models our students choose. After a year of virtual learning, many students are also struggling with self-control (they didn’t necessarily need to show self-control when they were at home by themselves in front of a screen with “Mute All” to keep them in check). Using Morning Meeting, classroom rules and routines, logical consequences, and role-play helps students develop these skills, whether they are back in the classroom or still at home online.
My use of teacher language continues to evolve. As I started teaching older students, I learned that while their bodies may be bigger and their vocabulary larger, they are still children. They need to hear me speak in a firm but caring tone. I need to be a good listener and encourage them to use their voice by modeling mine in a friendly and professional way. I can use humor to diffuse a situation or celebrate a success with reinforcing language. Language is our most accessible tool as teachers.
During my year as the virtual third grade teacher for my school, I affirmed my belief that engagement is crucial to real learning. No amount of flashy videos, silly lyrics, or sliding deadlines can encourage an eight-year-old to make strides in their education unless they feel personally connected to their learning materials, their teacher, and their classmates. They still need to know, “Why do we have to learn this?” and “When will I ever use it?” as well as “Who cares if I make progress?” Students want to belong, feel significant, and have fun as they learn.
More than ever, I see how effective management and engaging academics are the foundation to building a positive community. I still want my students to achieve their hopes and dreams for themselves and my hopes and dreams for them, as they are the future of our country and our world.
Finally, I learned that I must stick up for my beliefs. I know what I believe about students, about education, about learning, and about my role as a teacher. I will continue to serve my students, whether they are children or adults, to the best of my ability, using the strategies and practices I have learned over the last twenty-three years.
I am a Responsive Classroom teacher.
Suzanne Wright is a Responsive Classroom consulting teacher and teaches at the Sarasota Suncoast Academy in Sarasota, Florida.