This might sound cheesy, but I love seeing quotes on social media. Reading them reminds me why I get out of bed each morning. We are so busy that it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of what’s important. I want to share my favourite ten with you, in no particular order. Use them for your own inspiration and reflection, and add more to the comments section.
Watch the full TED talk here. Rita’s talk is so passionate and powerful that it’s worth watching again and again. It’s also very funny! This quote reminds me that teaching is not just a job. Being a teacher is a huge responsibility that we have been entrusted with and students depend on us. No teacher should sleep soundly while students in their responsibility are failing or disengaging. Be their champion. Sadly, the education system in America lost one of their heroes when she died a few months after giving this speech. Her message deserves to live on.
This seems to be a global issue in education. Some places are worse than others, but it seems like the whole world values mathematics and literacy above all else. Too many students are victims of this because they excel in other areas. Their strengths are too often disregarded and they gradually lose their self-esteem throughout school life, just because their weaknesses are the ‘important’ subjects. What if PE or music was at the top of the hierarchy? I would have failed school miserably. We need to ensure that we offer a broad and balanced curriculum which values all subjects equally (not an easy task when schools are primarily judged on test results). As teachers, we need to find out what our students’ strengths are and make a conscious effort to recognise and share them. No child should believe that they are stupid.
Angela Maiers reminds us that personal connections are key to teaching. Our students are not robots to be filled with facts. They are children whose trust we need to earn through encouragement, empathy and care. We should strive to get to know our students, and not just at the beginning of the year. Teachers care about their students an awful lot. We’d take a bullet for any of them… but do they realise how much we care? Make sure that every one of them knows beyond any doubt.
When I trained in the UK, the number one teaching standard for trainee teachers was to have high expectations of students (I don’t know if it has changed since). This quote quite rightly recognises the fact that students will aim for whatever target you set for them. If you believe that they can achieve something, then they’re halfway there. Too often we write students off as ‘low ability’ and in turn we expect so little of them. I also believe strongly that this quote could relate to behaviour as well as ability. Students who are written off as ‘naughty’ will accept this label and live up to it. Have high expectations of ‘naughty’ kids and watch them flourish. Again, they’ll aim for whatever bar you set for them.
This quote simultaneously acknowledges the importance of human connections in teaching, and the necessity to integrate technology. Teaching has always been, and will always be, about human connections. No technology will ever come close to that. However, technology is essential for 21st Century learning. These two essentials, together, will transform learning, as they have already started to do. The success stories from educational technology are due to the fantastic teachers that use it. Even amazing teachers are letting their students down if they deprive students of the technological skills and understanding that they will undoubtedly need in their futures. Embrace technology, even if you take baby steps.
“If school was optional, how many of your students would come?”
This is a brilliant question for reflection. If students did not have to come to school, we would have to work so much harder to make them want to. This is what we should be doing anyway. Enough said.
“Would you want your child to be in your class?”
Another brilliant question to ask yourself, especially if you really are a parent. If you would not want your own child to be in your class, for whatever reason, then you need to make changes for your students and parents who do not have the choice. This is not about comparing yourself to others. It’s about thinking about your own practice and finding ways to be an even better teacher for your students. Any teacher who cares about every child, teaches with passion and constantly works hard to improve will be able to answer this question with a ‘yes’.
Every teacher and every leader needs to remember this. I believe it wholeheartedly. A pat on the back goes a long way, and I don’t think anyone really grows out of this. It’s as relevant to adults as it is to students. For teachers, we need to appreciate every single student. As the relationship strengthens from the positivity, the students will thrive.
“No educator’s comfort zone should ever impede a child’s learning.”
All adults, especially educators, should be dedicated to lifelong learning. Teaching is a vocation, not a job. Furthermore, it’s a vocation that is constantly changing. There is always something new to learn. If what you do is comfortable, then it’s probably time to try something new. You have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable (I can’t remember who introduced that phrase to me). Whatever our students’ needs are, it’s our responsibility to target them. Have you ever avoided teaching something, just because you’re unfamiliar about it yourself? We need to be learners too.
“For anyone with the post-holiday blues, remember that you probably have at least one student who has had nothing else to do other than look forward to seeing you again.”
This one will stay with me forever. I can’t remember the exact words and I can’t find it anywhere unfortunately, but it was something along these lines. Every teacher feels disappointment as their holidays come to an end. That first day back is dreaded. Change your perspective. Think about the student who has had a miserable time, especially if you work with difficult families. Imagine that that child’s only joy has come from daydreaming about school and being back with their caring teacher. Once again, we need to be their champions.
I hope that at least one of these has struck a chord with you. Which one? Let me know. There are hundreds more great quotes out there. Which ones have I missed? Add them to the comments and let’s keep the inspiration going!