To improve your teaching, lift, don’t push. Mediocre teachers push their students through the curriculum. You know – coverage. But great teachers do something different. They scaffold instruction so every student is successful.
Mr. Grow Needs to Improve His Teaching
Our favorite fourth grade teacher, Ms. Sneed, sat at the back table and watched her new student teacher. Yep. He was doing it again. Teaching. With no apparent regard to learning. It was time for a talk.
Change Your Teaching Mindset
After the students left for the day, Ms. Sneed and Mr. Grow sat down for their usual debrief.
“I thought you were well prepared for the science lesson today,” Ms. Sneed began.
“Thank you,” the younger teacher responded. “I read through the entire chapter and felt that I understood the content well.”
Ms. Sneed tapped her pencil. “So how well do you think the students understood it when you finished?”
Mr. Grow looked perplexed. “I covered the material, and they took some notes. So I guess they also got it.”
“Hmm. Coverage,” said Ms. Sneed. “I understand where you’re coming from. Since you are still technically a student, your focus remains on your own performance. However, in real life, you are now the teacher. It’s time to change your mindset. Focus on learning, not teaching.”
Mr. Grow paused in thought. Finally, he spoke. “I guess I never thought about it that way.”
“Don’t feel bad.” Ms. Sneed chuckled. “Most teachers take a while to make the shift. Some never do.”
The mentor continued, “My mantra is ‘lift, don’t push.’ Let me explain.”
To Improve Teaching, Don’t Push
“When I began teaching, I pushed my kids through the curriculum every day. Coverage. Was it boring? You bet. Boring for me, and boring for the kids. Then – I don’t know if it happened slowly or overnight – I realized that I needed to lift my students to new heights. Lift, not push.”
Ms. Sneed continued, “This type of teaching requires greater effort. But with it comes greater reward.”
Lift Kids by Scaffolding
“Great teachers understand two things: scaffolding and getting in kids’ heads.
“Think about a ladder. At the beginning of any new concept, kids begin on the bottom rung. Through careful planning, the teacher helps them climb one rung at a time. Finally, they can apply that concept on their own. That’s scaffolding.”
Mr. Grow nodded. “I think it’s sinking in. The teacher provides enough guidance for the kids to climb it. But they climb the ladder. It’s about the kids, not the teacher.”
“Exactly! The other piece I want you to think about is getting into kids’ heads. You can stand up there all day long and teach. But if you aren’t connecting with every little head out there, you’re making no impact. Just think about it. We’ll talk about it more later.”
To Improve Teaching, Believe That Every Student Can Get There
That puzzled look crossed Mr. Grow’s face again. “If I help every child reach the top of the ladder, how can I effectively grade them?”
“Ha!” exclaimed Ms. Sneed. “I’m glad you brought that up! You mean the bell curve and all that. The idea that a few will excel, a few will fail, and most will only partially get it. Well phooey! Unfortunately, that old-fashioned system reflects a failure on the part of the teacher. I believe that the buck stops here. I am ultimately responsible for student learning. Sure, some kids will do better than others. But our goal is to have every child learning, growing, and mastering.”
“Definitely a change in mindset for me,” said Mr. Grow.
That slow teacher smile spread across Ms. Sneed’s face. “Don’t worry. To improve teaching, educators work on this for their entire careers. The teaching struggle is real. However, because it’s challenging, it’s also rewarding. Over the next week, we’ll spend some time talking about student-centered learning and ways to maximize teaching.”
Over the course of her career, Ms. Sneed realized that there were 6 steps to enjoy teaching. In order to survive, she had to organize, plan, and simplify. Then, to thrive, Ms. Sneed needed to learn, engage, and finally – dive in! Follow the Fabulous Teaching Adventures of Ms. Sneed and learn how you can enjoy teaching too.