Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Teacher Qualities in Middle Schools Just Might Make the Difference

In the article “Teaching Secrets: What Kids Wish Teachers Knew,” Laurie Wasserman tells the story of her friend and colleague who was accompanied by her daughter Talia, and the discussion about Talia’s list of things her teacher should know about their students. This is a great list for parents to use when evaluating your own kids teachers:

“Tell your stories about when you were our age.” Talia explained that when teachers share their own middle school stories—including some of their blunders or embarrassing moments—it makes them more human. Her mother, my colleague, told us she did this in her own classroom because she realized how much it meant to her students to hear about her own mistakes as a kid.

“Teachers underestimate what kids can do, and what they know.” Often, Talia explained, teachers assume kids can’t tell if a teacher is unprepared for class. But of course they can. Students also appreciate good teaching, exciting lessons, test review games, and activities. Years later, the kids remember which teachers lacked respect for themselves or their students. They remember the sarcastic comments, as well as the kind and caring ones.

“We love to see our work hung up on the board.” Talia shared how much it meant to come into a classroom and see her diligent efforts and those of her classmates prominently displayed. It meant the teacher was proud of you and willing to take the time to show off your hard work.

“Read aloud to us. You’re never too old to be read aloud to.” Simply put, it strengthens the bond between teacher and students. It’s a gift from the teacher that students recognize.

“Get us out from behind our desks.” Kids this age need to move around, and they love it when you’ve taken the time to plan opportunities for movement into your lessons. “We need to get physical,” Talia is saying. “It keeps us learning.”

“You have to want to be around people, otherwise you make us miserable.” The kids know whether you’re a “people person” and enjoy the company of kids. And sadly, they know if you aren’t. Talia told us stories of some of her “hands off, impersonal teachers,” as well as the warm, friendly teachers that made a difference. They will always be remembered.

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