Shelly Sanchez Terrell is an English teacher living in Germany. She is also the co-organizer and co-creator of the educational projects, Edchat and The Reform Symposium Conference. Find more of her challenges on her education blog, Teacher Reboot Camp or in her free e-book, The 30 Goals Challenge. Find her on Twitter, @ShellTerrell.
I remember having a lesson observed for my teacher certification. The lesson didn’t go well and my observer made it a point to let me know how miserably I failed. I have gotten critiques before, but this one was different. I felt like a failure. My observer had not liked one thing I did in my lesson. I felt as if I wasn’t a good teacher. No teacher likes that feeling. Actually, no one likes to feel like a failure.
I cried to a friend who is a principal. He has never seen me teach, but he told me, “Don’t think you’re not a good teacher. I know you’re a good teacher because you’re passionate and I rather have a passionate teacher because I can teach them the rest.” By the end of the conversation I managed to smile a little and have a little bit more faith in myself. My friend planted a seed of belief in me.
Are you surrounded by those who believe in you?
In the same way, this series is meant to plant a seed of belief in you. As an educator you will have many plant seeds of disbelief in you. Parents may blame you for their child’s failure. Administrators may say you’re not doing enough to raise your test scores. Students may disrespect you. The government may say they don’t have enough money in the budget for you. Even the President may say you deserve to be fired if you can’t get your students to pass standardized tests. All these are seeds of negativity and disbelief. I often see great teachers who have lost their belief in themselves. They teach without passion and without the belief that they can make a difference so they don’t inspire their students.
Time to tune out the negativity…
Instead, find friends, mentors, educators online, and friends who will plant seeds of faith in you and your abilities. When we remain passionate versus defeated we impact our students in a positive way. We come to classes motivated to give our all and this reflects in how we instruct and how we interact with our students. We show interest and excitement in our subject and students become curious why we are so passionate about our subjects.
How about the students?
From the Bible, I adopted the belief that having a mustard seed of faith could move mountains. I believe if I plant a mustard seed of faith into the mind of every student, then they will believe that they can achieve their dreams and goals. If students believe they can go to college, then they will strive to complete high school. If students believe they can have successful careers, then they might work towards earning the credentials for that career.
What is more powerful than belief is hopelessness. There are too many students who do not believe in themselves and they live in poverty, join gangs, commit crimes, or resort to addictions. Their children feel their hopelessness and often repeat the cycle.
Approaching the school year with a new attitude…
Everyday, we walk into the classroom we plant seeds in our students. When a student struggles we can choose to say, “Yes, I believe you can do this. I will help you.” We also can choose to ignore the student or believe the student is lazy and just does not want to learn. When students disappoint us we can believe in them enough to challenge them to do better or we can give up on them.
It is not easy believing in every student, but we must muster this for our students. Trust me, your worst behaved student is probably the one most teachers and people did not believe in. Therefore, your belief could be the one seed of faith ever planted in this student.
Show each of your students this year you believe in them.