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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

What makes a good teacher?



Each new year I work with my ninth grade classes on goal setting, planning, and character building. This is an opportune time because at the beginning of the ninth grade -- they think they know it all. They don't know what they don't know! At the middle of the year, they've gotten their grades and most of them have gotten the rude awakening that this is where it begins to count! They realize they want to make better grades and they are willing to change -- to listen!

Albert Einstein said, the definition of insanity is

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Well, that is what so much of us do. We want new results but we don't want to change. It doesn't happen! Kids want better grades but they don't get organized, they don't write down their assignments, they don't study. We must teach them those skills.

I have a grandmother who I adore. She is truly a woman who has made much of her life after growing up with nothing in the depression. I am forever changed due to her presence. One of the most complimentary things that all people have said about her is how she listened. When you talked to my grandmother, she would attend to you with a rapt, engaged expression of 100% listening. She watched your body language and she saw everything! She listened and heard!

I want to be more like her. My new year's resolution is unlike that of many, I think. I am resolved to become a rapt, engaged listener. It is so important. I feel that I do it so poorly.

I have picked up a life changing book that I love called The ServantBORDER=0: A Simple Story about the True Essence of Leadership by James C. Hunter. In this book, the mentor Simeon is talking to a man who has been sent on sabattical by his wife and work for an inability to get along with people. He seemingly has everything but has some habits that cause problems with others.

Simeon tells John, the executive on Sabbatical:

"When you cut people off in midsentence like that, John, it sends some bad messages. Number one, by cutting me off you obviously have not been listening to me very well if you've already formulated your response in your head; two, you do not value me or my opinion because you refuse to take the time to hear me out; and finally, you must believe that what you've got to say is much more important that what I've got to say. John, these are disrespectful messages you just can't afford to send as the leader."

"But that's not the way I feel, Simeon," I [John] objected. "I have a great deal of respect for you."

"Your feelings of respect must be aligned with your actions of respect, John."

That is my question for you -- do you listen to your students? Do you interrupt them? There is one other think I love from the book, it is the definition of leadership.

"The key to leadership is accomplishing the tasks at hand while building relationships." (p 41)

I love it! It also has a great discussion on whether you lead through power or authority. I'll save that for another day!

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