I posted at length about each part of Mr. Fitz’s new mantra, “Teach Happy, Teach Right, Speak Up” on recent posts, but perhaps “at length” made the ideas I presented less rather than more accessable.
I’ve always liked brief, meaningful pieces like Rudyard Kipling’s “If” and Kent M. Keith’s “Anyway: The Paradoxical Commandments,” so in that spirit, here’s my attempt to sum up this mantra… briefly.
Teach happy. Great teachers can never be powered by stress and depression. All you’ll do is pass stress and depression on to your students. Great teaching is powered by passion for your subject, love for your students, and enthusiasm for learning. Ignore everything and everyone that gets in the way of your passion, love, and enthusiasm. Be the teacher you were meant to be.
Teach right. Great teachers are not data-driven, Quantifiable Learning Gains Facilitators. Low test scores are a symptom, and focusing on raising scores treats the symptom but ignores the real problem. The real problem is that many of our students have not had enough people investing in our students minds, in their Intellectual Bank Accounts. Our students who thrive have been read to, have learned to love to read on their own, have been encouraged to play, to be curious, to use their imaginations. Our students who succeed have been able to discuss ideas, play with ideas, and solve problems. Our students who are best prepared for the future have had their creativity encouraged and been given opportunities to exercise it. Our students who struggle the most are being put in “intensive classes” that are the exact opposite of what they really need. They need to be invested in. A teacher or school can’t make up for all the lack of investments that someone else has been unwilling or unable to give them, but it can do the next best thing: invest enough in students that they will be willing to invest in themselves.
Speak up. A teacher’s role is not to do as he or she is told and then say “I was just following orders.” There is a lot of talk these days about putting students first. You don’t do that by putting test scores and corporate agendas and profits and politics first. If teachers are really going to truly put students first, they need to stand up for their students, speak up against the over-testing, standardization, and killing of creativity and joy in learning that are the real problem in education these days. Dissent has a long and honorable history in our country; our country was in fact founded on dissent. To do as you are told and follow a scripted curriculum and teach to the test is not putting students first. To keep your head down, close your classroom door and do what’s right for your students is only putting your students first. And eventually they will come and prop your door open or put a camera in it. We must speak up, because our children deserve real investments by real, caring, thinking, creative teachers who don’t view their students as test scores who will someday become obedient employees, but who view them as human beings with dreams and potential.
Together we can make things right for our students.