Teaching is about encouragement. Most of the curriculum we teach will not directly apply to our students’ futures, and most of it will not be remembered. Still, our kids spends 5-20+ hours with us in a week, and we are not just teaching geometry or chemistry or history — we are demonstrating how to deal with frustration, how to handle opposition, how to show kindness and patience in the face of irritation and disrespect. Our kids will not need our algebra equations or Jane Eyre analysis like they will need to know how to navigate difficult relationships and not retreat at the threat of challenge. We are here to equip, but not with facts only. So why are we in our classrooms? What keeps us planning lessons and trying to maintain order?
We are in our classrooms to encourage. If every teacher redefined his or her job description and identity as an educator, our country would explode with positive innovation and creativity. I used to find all my students’ mistakes because I was insecure about my credibility as a teacher, thinking that those mistakes reflected poorly on me. So I thought. But the more critical I was, the worse my students seemed to perform and the more I hated my job. Once I realized that God may have given me my job for a reason other than performance and grades, I started finding all the positives I could. I started to see myself as an encourager, and the more good I see in my students, the more I am constantly impressed.
Potential is unlimited but it is also shy, especially when exposed to criticism. Focusing on the positives and signs of growth was not easy at first because I had to change my eyes – eyes that were trained to look for mistakes. Most of us have eyes that are able to find one small flaw in a beautiful room, a gorgeous piece of artwork, or a dynamic person. A new mindset takes work and then maintenance, but it gives me the gift of seeing myself and my students in a positive light.
Students blossom under the glow of encouragement, like flowers coaxed open by sunlight. I have seen the most unwilling of students change and the most unengaged children start participating. Flowers come in all colors – pink, purple, yellow, white, red, orange – just like students are gifted differently and born with unique attributes. We as educators cannot hope to leave a positive legacy if we insist that they all look the same.
What is your real purpose as an educator? What is your lasting legacy?