Over the past nine years I have had the pleasure of hiring (and the displeasure of firing) new hires into their teaching careers. In watching teachers come into the profession some just “have it.” Some seem to be innately programmed to be teachers. For others, it is a much more difficult road to travel. Additionally, there has been much awareness brought up about “teacher burn-out” and teachers not being able to survive this profession.
It has taken nine years of watching, listening, and observing to come to understand that there are two distinct differences between teachers that excel and love the profession, and those that do not excel and are prone to burn-out.
1. Reflective Practice
The power of a reflective teacher is unstoppable. What I have noticed about reflective teachers is through their abilities to analyze, clarify, pinpoint and adjust their practice they move into a distinct zone of improvement. The improvement becomes noticeable each week.
The reflective teacher knows how to:
- Create lessons designed for specific purposes and to meet specific outcomes;
- Adjust these lessons to the needs of different students;
- Observe students;
- Talk about and share successful and unsuccessful features of the lesson;
- Create a better lesson based on this information;
When a teacher is able to get into this reflective flow, they become intellectually engaged and oriented to supporting the learning of their students. With this engagement their practice becomes energizing, goal oriented, and challenging.
Hand in hand with reflective practice is coachability. Coachability speaks to the teachers capacity to:
- hear feedback;
- analyze and understand the feedback;
- implement the feedback into their teaching.
Without this, it is unlikely a teacher will be successful in growing and learning themselves. They become closed and rigid to ideas and suggestions and feel there is no other way to do things; what they do now is good because they have always done it. Unfortunately, a teacher who is not reflective or coachable has difficulty adjusting their practice to the needs of different learners. This leads to frustration with their students, and often a mindset of changing others rather than changing themselves. We all know changing others is a futile task, and here comes teacher burn-out.
What can I do now?
The good part is it can be easy to develop the skills of reflectiveness and coachability if you don’t already have them.
- Be open-minded; you need to learn something new everyday;
- Take notes; what are you doing and what are others doing that is successful or unsuccessful (we learn from our mistakes);
- Work with colleagues; in all ways – open up your practice;
- Ask questions.
We know that teaching is a demanding, busy, spontaneous profession. Thriving in it is possible when we understand that those who thrive are reflective and coachable.