Once a graduate with an education degree becomes a certified teacher, the learning doesn’t end there. Continuing Education Units (CEU) are required each year someone wants to maintain teaching certification.
However, there are other ways teachers can – and should – learn in order to develop the skills they need to become effective educators. There is an opportunity to learn that costs nothing and comes from a most likely place — students. Admittedly, it’s not always easy to step back from the role of “teacher” and realize that sometimes one needs to become the student.
Experienced educators are convinced it’s worth the time and effort. And what can be gained through the experience? Here are a few of the lessons teachers say they have learned from their students:
*Patience. If anyone can test your patience, it’s students. Practice the art of patience during minor irritations, and handling the more stressful situations will seem easier. Some consider patience a virtue, and for good reason. Life seems to flow much easier, not only for us, but for those around us, if we know how to be patient. Endurance, persistence, tolerance…these qualities are all rooted in patience. Now what student would not want to learn from a teacher who exhibited those character traits?
*Humility. Educators are “supposed” to know everything about their subject. But that’s a rather unrealistic goal. Sometimes teachers are expected to answer a question they just don’t know. When this happens to you, be honest. If you don’t know the answer, say so, and agree to research it to find out the answer. Or make it a class project to find out the answer. The true scope of teaching not only involves instruction, but of developing the academic potential of students. Just as the role of a coach is to encourage team members to reach their greatest potential – not prove to them how great their own athletic abilities are — educators often need to step back so their students can shine.
*Everyone learns differently. Although learning is universal, the way students learn is greatly individual. Getting to know your students and their learning styles will pay off big during testing. Sometimes it’s as easy as asking students to tell you what you can do to help them learn class material more easily. For some, it might be simple reading. Others may need additional audio-visuals to illustrate the points of the concept. Hands-on projects might better serve members of the class who learn by doing. Be open to switching up your teaching style to accommodate different learning styles.
*Learning can be a struggle. Don’t forget what it was like for you as a student. Everyone has, at least once, felt overwhelmed, insecure and convinced they are the only one in class who isn’t grasping the concept. Don’t assume that if no questions are being asked that no one is struggling. Learn to pick up on cues that a student isn’t engaged. Stress to your students that everyone struggles at times, and that confidence will return once the concept is mastered. Be patient with those who are struggling.
*Never underestimate people, especially students. In this Age of the Internet, anecdotes abound of unengaged, “C” students who eventually became multi-millionaire company moguls. No, most students will not be called to that fate, but many an underestimated student has ultimately surprised everyone with an abundance of creativity, musical talent or a scientific mind. So don’t be quick to judge potential. As the old saying goes, don’t judge a book by its cover. You never know what is lurking inside.
*Being human is okay! Humanity comes in many shapes, sizes and colors. Develop a love for the individuality of each of your students. Often, the one we learn from the most is the person most different from us.