Thursday, August 6, 2015

Never Work Harder Than Your Students Takeaways

I finished the second book on my summer reading list recently.  If you aren't familiar with the book, there are seven principles that the author walks you through, and "Never Work Harder Than Your Students" is just one of them.  (I felt that the title was misleading.  I had completely different expectations for this book based on the title.)

I'm going to be honest.  While reading the first two chapters, I absolutely hated the book.  I didn't feel like I was getting anything out of the book that was really helpful.  Then I got to chapter 3, and I pretty much felt that my life as a teacher had changed.

The third principle is "Expect to Get Your Students There."  In this principle, the author referenced all of the famous teaching stories we've seen in movies.  It is always assumed by the viewer that because the teacher believed in the students, the students were able to perform above everyone else's expectations.  It also reminds me of the classic story that a teacher was told her class was all of the smartest kids when it was really a class where the kids all had learning deficits, and because she expected them to be able to do things that smart kids could do, they did.  The author suggests that the reason these teachers were able to do amazing things with challenging groups of students was because they believed in their abilities as a teacher.  For me, this principle shifts the power.  It's not their abilities that I have to believe in (and really this comes out to hoping), but my abilities.  I'm hoping that a "fake it 'til you make it" approach will suffice until I'm truly confident in my teaching abilities.

The exercise the author suggested was listing your strengths as a teacher.  For me, I listed that I'm caring, intelligent, enthusiastic, a role model, honest, and organized.  As I'm writing this, I realize that I also need to add reflective. ;)  Then list the challenges your students have.  I listed that we are in a small school where there is a lack of resources, students come from difficult home situations, students are (seemingly) apathetic, many students are living in poverty, and they lack the skills necessary to be successful right away.  Then you have to ask yourself, "are my teaching strengths enough to overcome the challenges I face?"  I feel absolutely empowered by this revelation.  If there is something that you feel you do not have the skills to address, then seek out the help you need to acquire that skill.  For me, I'm going to work on student engagement and motivation.

The rest of the book had good information too.  I plan to refer back to it throughout the year.  The thing is that there is SO MUCH information, that it is overwhelming.  The point is to implement one principle at a time.  I'll try to do this throughout the school year.  (Right now I'm thinking that I'll implement some of the planning ideas, and then after a few weeks into the school year I will be able to start actively making changes.)

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