Albert Schweitzer once said, “In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”
Teaching takes a lot out of teachers. The demands of the students, the curriculum, the delivery, the assessment, the reporting, the behavior management, and the schedule add up to a lot.
New teachers often arrive at school eager to share their passion for the content. Over time, this enthusiasm about zealously instructing the complex creatures who show up in class each day can wane. It takes gumption to analyze a lesson that’s gone awry and figure out how to resurrect it from the dead.
Having colleagues who willingly collaborate between periods, over lunch, or after school help keep that flame alive. They know how much work it took to infuse technology into the lesson only to have the Wi-Fi go down in the middle of it. They get how hard it is to rebound after hearing a child’s difficult home life situation.
Inspiring professional development that offers a great new idea can help, but may not be implemented because of the lack of available energy. Three sets of papers are waiting to be graded, a parent needs to be contacted and that video clip must be found for tomorrow’s lesson. With less than an hour before heading home, the classroom door opens with yet another issue needing attention.
Spring break offered a much needed rest for the road weary travelers - aka talented teachers. It’s hard to admit when one hasn’t been at his or her best. It’s even harder to determine what will reignite the spark to make it better.
Time for introspection helps, but identifying the cause doesn’t fix it. Knowing what’s needed may not be enough either. Finding inspiration in someone else who can kick start the passion again is an alchemical event.
Teachers don’t always know what sparks the magic. It may be a text from a colleague requesting assistance. Sometimes it’s an unexpected thank you note from a student or a brief appreciative email from a parent. Praise from the boss or a post-it note from the instructional coach can also put the spring back in someone’s step.
School culture matters. In Jenni Donohoo’s January 2017 blog, she wrote about how teacher’s beliefs impact their student’s learning potential. “When teachers believe that together, they are capable of developing students’ critical thinking skills, creativity, and mastery of complex content, it happens! Collective teacher efficacy (CTE) refers to a staff’s shared belief that through their collective action, they can positively influence student outcomes, including those who are disengaged and/or disadvantaged. Educators with high efficacy show greater effort and persistence, a willingness to try new teaching approaches, set more challenging goals, and attend more closely to the needs of students who require extra assistance. In addition, when collective efficacy is present, staffs are better equipped to foster positive behavior in students and in raising students’ expectations of themselves by convincing them that they can do well in school.”
These beliefs about teacher efficacy guide educators’ actions and affect their resolve about having an impact. If educators belief they won’t have much influence on student achievement, then it’s likely they won’t. When they just know they’re positively impacting student learning, student outcomes reflect that.
Schools that have Collective Teacher Efficacy (CTE) shared some common conditions that increased the likelihood of getting the results they expected. Their teachers take part in school-wide decisions and reach consensus about goals. As Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), teachers continue to share practices so peers hear how their colleagues impact student learning which bolsters their confidence to try similar practices.
As teachers begin to agree with each other on key topics, it increases their cohesiveness as well as their resolve to have an impact. Add to this, responsive leaders who respect their staff and the school culture is bolstered and enhanced. Teachers appreciate administrators who protect them from detracting issues that take time away from their teaching focus.
Ensuring that all students are successful requires effective systems of intervention. How might your beliefs and practices inspire another educator to rekindle their passion? May your connections with colleagues cause them to burst into flames with transformative teaching.
Kristi McCracken, author of two children’s books and a long time teacher in the South Valley, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.