I remember what it was like in my adolescence to go to school with a heavy mind and heart. Anticipating the mysteries of adulthood – desiring freedom.
As a teacher, if I am worth anything, I must have EMPATHY for my students. On some level, I must be mindful and identify with my student’s feelings, thoughts, and attitudes.
All it takes is a bit of inquiry. It’s worth it.
Photo Credit: EKG Technician Salary
One of my favorite movies is “To Sir with Love”. In this movie, Engineer Mark Thackeray arrives to teach a totally undisciplined class at an East End school…He starts implementing his own brand of classroom discipline: forcing the pupils to treat each other with respect. Inevitably he begins getting involved in the students’ personal lives, and must avoid the advances of an amorous student while winning over the class.
I cry every time I see this movie because I love the relationships he develops as their teacher. When I decided to teach, this movie came to mind several times. I could see myself coming into a tough school situation and winning the hearts and minds of the students with a goal of improving their lives – not just academically, but all around. It’s a tall order – but one of the most important jobs you could have.
It means the world to me to be relational with my students. I work to have their trust and confidence while fostering their growth and development. Yes, it is entirely possible to do this and still hold them accountable to stay on task and do what it takes to learn. Not only do they need relationship, they need structure and guidance too.
While I’m no Sir…I love it when my students say, “Ms. Lyons…?”
Photo Credit: IMDB “To Sir with Love” 1967
“Please pay attention…get on task…focus! Do you hear me?”
As a mother of a teenager who struggled with attention deficit disorder (a label he hates even now), I thought I had the best information and tools in my arsenal. I read many of the books and even became certified to coach parents of attention deficit disorder or hyperactive disorder ADD/ADHD children.
What I did not realize is the real root cause of inattentiveness; nor how to positively impact my son’s environment enough to support him in developing attention skills. I also needed to view some of his behaviors as normal because his brain was doing something that would prove invaluable later on in his life.
The parent coaching certification program I completed never addressed infant or child brain development or research – it was simply so long ago. Back then, the focus was on mainly behavior outcomes and educational reform advocacy.
Today, I know so much more! Some of the behaviors infants and toddlers display is actually necessary for orientating, maintaining, and controlling or regulating their attention skills. Patience and understanding is what is needed during the so-called terrible twos. Although it looks like an unnecessary tantrum, the brain is busy at work in reconstructing that child’s neural patterns. This is when the child is developing their patience, controlling emotions, and directing their focus.
As a middle school teacher with this understanding, I am grateful for the opportunity to positively impact my student’s environment by:
- providing opportunities to make the best of their attention skills with curriculum and activities that consider their specific needs
- passing on my knowledge and encouraging parents to reinforce healthier nutrition and regular bedtimes (proper sleep is vital to brain cell development)
- providing a safe environment in my classroom – free of the big 5 (fear, hunger, abuse, neglect, or depression)
Photo Credit: Quinn Dombrowski
After watching the videos: Brain Plasticity and Imaging/Development on the website: Changing Brains: Effects of Experience on Human Brain Development, I realized there is a lot more to teaching than standing in the front of the room and sharing lesson plans. How am I impacted by this information as a teacher?
Our youth are fragile human beings that require a lot more than most realize. Specifically, they require individualized attention in a collective world. Because the child’s brain is continually developing and as a teacher I have a great deal to do with the sensitive periods during that development, I must be both deliberate and considerate in my teaching method.
I want to see each of my students grow and mature to a healthy adult life and way of being. My greatest contribution as a teacher can only take place during the minutes I have them in my classroom. For me, those moments are precious. The deliberate actions taken must be positive and reinforce building a healthy brain. The activities we do in the classroom, the conversations we hold, and what I expose them to all play an important role in building a strong foundation for their future growth and development.
My least favorite phrase (especially while teaching) is, “I’m bored.”
Why? Because it is a red flag that as a teacher, I am not doing what I should be. There shouldn’t be a dull moment. Engagement is the name of the game!
As a new teacher, this is my number one focus – STUDENT ENGAGEMENT. I am always looking for anything that will help in this area. My students shouldn’t be bored! They should be on the edge of their seats inhaling knowledge. They should be so interested that they long for every word I speak and they look forward to participating every opportunity they can!
My goal is to become the best teacher ever when it comes to student engagement!
Today, I received a couple of the textbooks for my Spring, 2016 semester courses. Tomorrow is technically the first day of the semester. I am looking forward to the coursework.
This will be a busy time for me. I am currently full-time in the teaching internship, supporting the Science and Robotics Clubs, along with after-school tutoring.
In addition to this blog, I also have www.davinalyons.com – currently I am focused on transforming my body into a healthier more efficient vessel.
I wrote this post in November of 2015 in another education blog. I decided to close that blog and only use this one. I wanted to keep this, so I transferred it.
On the first day of school (my second year teaching), I told the students that the picture on the wall of the lion roaring at the butterflies was symbolic to our classroom. I stated, ” There will be times when I roar like a lion, but only to get you to transform from a caterpillar to a butterfly.” I could tell that some of the students really had to process what I was saying. Others got it right away! This is when I realized how passionate I had become about being in the classroom and teaching.
My students mean so much to me. At the end of my first year (May, 2015), I cried during the 8th grade promotion ceremony. I couldn’t help it. The song they walked to was that sad song played at the end of the most recent Fast and Furious movie where they pay homage to Paul Walker (the actor who died in the car crash). I love the Fast and Furious franchise because my son and I watched every movie as he grew up from 5 to 18 years old. Those movies created even more of a bond between my son and I.
“…How could we not talk about family when family’s all that we got? Everything I went through you were standing there by my side, and now you gonna be with me for the last ride. So let the light guide your way hold every memory as you go and every road you take will always lead you home…”
Those words in the song made me tear up even more. Where will they go? How will their lives turn out? I have been their classroom ‘momma’ for a year. The other teachers laughed at me. They told me I was a newbie and there would be many more students to come. Yet, my heart ached for those students. My first students – I called them ‘my babies’.
Why was I so attached? Well, I saw myself in them. I remember being that age and experiencing so much pain and uncertainty. I could see so much in their eyes. I wanted them to read and have experiences through literature that would expand their world, but they were simply in survival mode. We expect so much from this generation, yet life is dealing them some heavy blows.
As a teacher, all you can do is:
- feel their pain and press through daily to create a safe environment that fosters learning
- with passion – find ways to engage your students as they are distracted so easily
- walk with purpose in getting them to the next level as an educator
Above all else, this is my mission as a TEACHER!