Education has been in a state of flux for about 20 years. The latest trend is online teaching but there have been a lot of changes already in the last 20 years. Some will say President Bush tried to develop it with “No Child Left Behind” and I think most educated and informed people knew that would have only mixed results. By “left behind” it simply meant no one would fall below the C or passing on a uniform assessment. Many now may wonder, “What do students really need in a teacher?” Below I offer some suggestions.
1. Students need a listener. In a room of 20-30 students, it is hard to know the individual idiosyncrasies of your students right away. I have half-jokingly and half-seriously said for years that teachers should spend the first three weeks reviewing the classroom rules. Of course, other things should go on like pair share and group share. Most of all, the teacher should try to elicit responses to questions in effort toward getting to know students and listening to their needs.
2. Students need an expert in some field. Most the jobs we knew as kids are gone now. Employers nowadays want innovative thinkers who can be flexible. The more claims to fame to can make on your resume like “excellent computer skills” and “creative writer” the better chance you have to rise to the top of the pile of job applications. YOU as a teacher need to be teaching job skills. The children need to know they have spent time in the presence of some form of greatness and hopefully you have something like that to emanate. There is no longer wisdom in teaching or learning specific trades. The kids in elementary school now will have 10-20 jobs as opposed to my generation where, for an example, I have had about 5 jobs in my lifetime. Share your expertise so the kids can find security in “knowing” a skill they may one day use on the job.
3. Students need encouragement from their teacher. Our world is changing very rapidly. As I stated previously, jobs will exist in the future that we never dreamed of and jobs we have always know will cease to exist. If you were a kid, wouldn’t you need encouragement that everything was going to work out? Teachers need to be a source of encouragement to their class. In my opinion, you could strip away all curriculum and still have your work cut out for you in encouraging your kids. The need is that great.
In conclusion, students really need assurance. This can come in the form of powerful teaching of the common core standards, as it should, but it also needs to contain the 3 elements above. No matter what the budget cuts or the culture throws at us, we became teachers to help kids and that should be our battle cry when the waters are murky and unclear. I think a lot of teachers are confused about their role in the classroom. Whether you are a special education teacher or regular ed, I think you’ll agree that the three elements above are good places to start.