Saturday, August 12, 2017

3 Things Every Educator Should Remember

As I'm preparing to start another school year, I've been reflecting on all the conference sessions and inspirational speakers I've heard over the past several weeks. These sessions have made me think about teachers I've had in the past and what made them stand out. It has also been good to think back to things I could have done better in my education career. Whether you are a teacher, teacher librarian, or an administrator, you can still have a huge impact in the entire school learning community. I want to share three things that should be a focus for all of us each and every day we encounter students.

Enthusiasm is Contagious

Some of my favorite educators are always enthusiastic about their work. I have worked with principals, superintendents, and teachers that love what they do. You don't have to ask them; it shows in their daily approach to work and life. These people usually draw others to them naturally. They have the gift of making everyone feel special that comes into contact with them. One thing I have noticed about this special type of personality is that their energy and enthusiasm is contagious. I want to be like them and so do most people that come into contact with them.

Being an educator demands high energy since we are charged with motivating our learners to excellence. This year, what if we remembered that the energy we project is contagious? Does this mean we can go in each and every day with the intensity of the first weeks of school? Of course not. We are human and imperfect! We can approach each day knowing that people (students, teachers, administrators, and parents) are watching us and can feed off our enthusiasm. If I'm excited about the school library, others will also be excited because I am. They may not be as enthusiastic about the library as I am, but they will recognize I love what I do.

If I consistently stand at the door with a smile on my face and greet students (even on a Friday before spring break), it makes the atmosphere better for everyone. We set the tone in our classroom which can impact the entire school. I want to remember this each day I go to work. My enthusiasm could change the course of someone's day and maybe even their life. We never know what impact we may have! Enthusiam is contagious!

Relationships Matter

This week, I was reminded by a session speaker that a growing number of our students do not have the parental support system that many of us had as young people. My parents are still there for me, and I talk to them numerous times during the week. I can't even imagine what it must be like for a young person to not have someone at home supporting them with encouragement. Some of our students may be totally without parents. While this is a tragedy, it is also an opportunity for educators.

You don't have to look hard for these students in the hallways of a public school. In our school library, we seek them out. I love finding students that walk in the hallway staring at the floor and surprising them with  a genuine compliment. Something as simple as "I like your shirt" or "Nice shoes!" can brighten a student's day. It is entirely possible that such a compliment might be the only one they hear all day or all week. Try this each day, and watch what happens. It always opens doors for the kids that need it. This practice has drawn many students to the school library and provided them with a safe haven. It has also provided them with a support network, which is our library staff. Frequently, these students will start telling us about their interests. When they do this, we make time to listen. This is an opportunity to help a kid find books they may want to read. We may also be able to connect them to a makerspace tool or skill. Sometimes the opportunity comes to put such a student in front of the crowd and allow them to show off their talent. (Yes, this can happen in the library and/ or your classroom!)

My fondest memories from public school and college are of the positive relationships I had with my favorite teachers. The ones that stand out the most are the ones that showed me they cared. They listened to my dreams and encouraged me to reach for the stars. What memories are you creating for your learners? What will they remember about your library or classroom? What will they recall twenty years from now about you? Are you leaving a legacy of positive relationships? What if we considered this each day we went to work? Relationhips matter.

Each Day is an Opportunity

We never know what opportunity we may have to impact change in our students' lives each day. Education is a magical career because we are influencing both the present and the future. Each time a student codes something with one of our library makerspace robots, they could be taking those early steps to be the next successful programmer. When you encourage a student to keep trying at that skill they haven't yet mastered, your words could motivate them to a path to become an expert years from now. By connecting your students to the outside world through a tool like Skype, you may shatter their perception of distant countries and the people that live there. They may even forge lifelong friendships with future international colleagues through such continued classroom connections. The possiblities are truly endless.

Like anything in life, the education profession is what we make of it. What adventures will you take your students on this year in your library or classroom? Each day is an opportunity. Educators change lives. 

I can't wait to see what happens at school this year. Be sure to share the things you are enthusiastic about in the comments below. Remember... you make a difference!

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  1. At the end of a challenging day, I remind my colleagues (and myself) that we are truly making a difference in our students' lives, and the struggle will be worth it in the end. Thanks for your article!

    1. This so true, friend. Anything worth doing is not easy!

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