In today’s society, the American education system is in need of extraordinary teachers who care about the academic success of the twenty-first century school student. Many inner city as well as suburban students finds themselves in unfortunate surrounding involving drugs, illicit sex, gang, and home violence that hinder academic achievement. It takes an extraordinary teacher to reach into the hearts and minds of these students by implementing engaging and interesting lesson plans that makes the student refocus on learning.
As a teacher for fourteen years as well as a Teacher of the Year Award recipient, I believe that extraordinary teachers have certain habits that make them an inspiration to students, parents, teachers, and administrators. They challenge the lack of purpose in students, staff, administration, and adapt the No Child Should be Left Behind Act as a code of honor. Below are the five habits of extraordinary teachers.
Extraordinary teachers are excellence oriented. They don’t accept failure, neither in themselves nor their students. Failure is just an excuse to avoid perseverance and challenge. They don’t accept poverty, family dysfunction, or drug infested communities as an excuse for a student’s low academic achievement. Extraordinary teachers teach by empowerment, inspiration, and challenge. They attack low self-esteem and help students activate the uniqueness within themselves. Because of their dedication to the student, a track record of success follows them wherever they go. High regards and respect from fellow teachers, parents, and students surround them. Many have obtained Teachers of the Year Awards. Students discover early that these are the teachers whose classroom they would like to attend. Therefore their influence upon student achievement in any school is beyond measure. Extraordinary teachers such as Marva Collins have entered low achieving schools and transformed them in to an institution of academic success.
Well-Informed of Best Practices
Extraordinary teachers are always seeking the latest theoretical, strategic, and technological advancement in the field of education, either through the dynamic discoveries of others or through their own research and experimentation. They are always looking for ways to transform low performing students into high achievers. An extraordinary teacher desires teaching strategies that are engaging and exciting to students as well as their own colleagues and administrators. In fact, if an entire school is inspired by a particular practice, the excitement there of will spread through the building, from classroom to classroom, like wildfire. According to William Ayers, an educational reformist, “Great teaching demands an openness to something new, something unique, and something dynamic”(reference 1).This is the attitude and style that creates what is known as Best Practices. The Multiple Intelligence system of learning founded by Howard Gardner, and the Responsive Classroom approach are two of the most popular revolutionary teaching philosophies for today’s classroom settings. Rather than sitting silently and listening to the teachers all day, children are more active as classroom participants. Developed by GCS and NEFC, the purpose of Responsive Classroom approach to teaching is to create self-discipline and community both inside and outside the classroom. Students not only learn academics but also how to become a prosperous community of learners that gives value to society.
Committed to Educating All Students
Extraordinary teachers are committed to the education of all students. Aware that many students come from a variety of backgrounds, great teachers do their homework. They go out of their way to learn about the cultures of their students. These teachers make weekend library trips or spend long hours on the internet researching the customs, dress, and rituals of various ethnic groups. This knowledge helps them to determine new styles and approaches to teaching. Designing a personal culture day early in the school year for different cultures in the classroom is an ideal experience for students to understand the cultures of their classmates. Extraordinary teachers see that their students are very careful not to offend any of their multicultural classmates.
Also, by knowing the cultures of different ethnic groups, an extraordinary teacher uses the knowledge as an education project for the entire classroom. Children get to know the practices, rituals, and experience of other cultures first hand. This knowledge also helps students respect and appreciate uniqueness in others.
Always Envisioning the Student’s Future
Another habit of extraordinary teachers is that of envisioning what a child could be in the future. A great teacher may see one child as a doctor and the other as a lawyer, accountant, or a celebrated athlete. Whatever profession a teacher sees that student is personal only to them. The purpose of the strategy is to see the student more than just another student in the classroom. It is a good idea for the teacher to practice this habit early in the semester for each student. Each extraordinary teaches have various ways of envisioning a student’s future. A good thing is to write down the name of each student on a separate piece of paper and write a profession beside it that you think the child’s unique personality and character would match. This activity keeps the teacher always aware of the student’s potential. Also this strategy helps to separate the child from its behavior whenever disciplinary measures are enacted. Envisioning the future of a student takes a teacher that deeply cares for the success of the child. In many of today’s classrooms, multitudes of teachers across the nation wait impatiently for the day to end. They are relieved when the child walks out of the door or when the child doesn’t show up the next day because of some illness or incident. But extraordinary teachers don’t believe in giving up on children. They goal is to empower students with the desire to learn by whatever means necessary.
Seek to Build Strong Relationships with Parents
Extraordinary teachers are team players and seek to build strong relationships with students and families. They delight in communicating with parents, students, and fellow colleagues in order to bond and work together to create a great learning environment. The extraordinary teacher has many needs as well. They need corporation from students, parents, teachers, and administrators in order to bring about transformation in student academics. They need students to believe in themselves in order to assist them into changing their academic destiny.
To many, extraordinary teachers will appear larger than life in their perspective fields because of the innovative changes they bring to the table. But without the collective support of students, faculty, and staff, great teachers know that successful changes in academic scene are rarely possible. Extraordinary teachers aspire in the school environment where there is unity of purpose among all involved.
All in all, twenty-first century students must have the encouragement of teachers, staff, and parents behind them if they are to accelerate in learning.
Recruiting Extraordinary Minded Teachers
In order for the American Education system to eliminate the problem of illiteracy and to close the achievement gap, it must recruit extraordinary teachers who embrace more than the No Child Left behind Act. All teachers must become dedicated to excellence and fully committed to the education of the twenty-first century student. Extraordinary teachers must grow and expand across America and invade the classrooms of challenging inner cities and struggling suburban’s schools. Money must become less of an issue. Instead the priceless investment in the student must become the highest priority if the Education system in America is to overcome mediocrity and excel. There is no special inward talent to gaining an extraordinary teacher mentality. It can be assumed by any teacher who has the outstanding privilege of educating a twenty-first century child.
Ayers, William. To Teach: the journey of the teacher (New York: Teachers College Press, 2001).