-by Dan Jones-
As a teacher, you are in a position to make a difference for your students, not only today but potentially for a lifetime. My question to you is, Do you believe that? Do you believe what you are doing day in and day out will leave a footprint that can alter the life direction of each individual student in your classroom? It is so easy to forget why we do what we do and to become stuck in routines; so rhythmic that our actions, reactions, and engagements are manufactured. The pressures we face and the demands of our curriculum mean that keeping our focus on students and supporting them requires extra effort and attention.
Often we approach the year with high expectations of grandeur, and when we cross the threshold of our classroom, the wind is taken out of our sails when we face difficult students. We all know that the most challenging students are usually the ones who need us the most. We cannot control what those students experience outside of our classroom, but we can control what they experience in our classroom. Amelia Harper wrote an article titled Compassion is key in effective classroom management. In this article, she states, “Striving to understand the daily challenges that students face can improve relationships between teachers and students and help students see that teachers teach because they care.”
The teacher’s role goes beyond providing students with content driven by standards, 21st-century skills, and college and career readiness. Our students don’t enjoy our classes because we provide those things. They enjoy our class because of how we make them feel. Rita Pierson, in her TED talk titled Every Kid Needs a Champion, states, “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like!” Their behaviors, responses, and engagement directly correlate to how we make them feel. Do you remember the passion you felt when you first became a teacher? Is that zeal for teaching coming through and touching the lives of your students? Does it continue to push through when the challenging students aren’t at their best? If it doesn’t, you need to ask yourself the most difficult question, “Am I teaching sincerely? Am I real or am I putting on a show?” Looking beyond the behaviors of our students and showing them a sincere passion that is not dependent upon their behaviors is no easy task, but it is a must if we are to reach every student.
Students know authentic sincerity, and they also know insincerity; they can spot a phony a mile away. None of us intend to be insincere, but it is something that we must keep in check. We need to set a positive standard for our students. So much of their world revolves around fake images of what they wish their life was like. We owe it to them to demonstrate sincerity. James Comer, associate dean at the Yale School of Medicine, is quoted as saying, “No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship. Sincerity is the cornerstone of any significant relationship.”
When I journeyed into Flipped Learning, I did so because I wanted to do what was best for kids. The way I treat them every day, the conversations I have with them, the way I make them feel, being open and honest with them, not being afraid to be goofy, laughing with them, crying with them, and just being real with them; it all plays into showing students a standard of sincerity. According to new research published in the National Communication Association’s journal, Communication Education, authors, Zac D. Johnson and Sara LaBelle summarize that “Teachers who have an authentic teaching style are more positively received by their students.” Our authenticity permits students to be real and honest.
Sincerity must be at the center of every interaction with every child. I don’t know that there is anything more difficult in the education profession than remaining consistently sincere. Sincerity cannot be taught; it must come from the heart. You can be a good teacher even if you struggle with sincerity, but the great teachers recognize their struggle to be sincere and seek to improve every day. If you have chosen to flip your class, you have shown a commitment to creating a student-centered learning environment. You must take that commitment one step further now; your students need more than your instruction to be student-centered, they need you to be student-centered. John McCarthy, an education consultant, advocate for Student Voice in Learning, wrote an article for Edutopia titled Student-Centered Learning: It Starts With the Teacher. In his article, he writes about the importance of knowing our students: their likes, interests, and values. It is this knowledge that empowers students to take more ownership in their learning. Flipped Learning provides you with the time in the classroom to engage your students sincerely. Walking with them through their educational journey, supporting them step-by-step will build a bond that allows you the permission to affect their day, their week, their year, and even their life.