On the shelf in my office, I have a short book by Todd Whittaker, an American educator and motivational speaker. I have owned his book for well over a decade and read it more than a few times. I often return to it when I feel the need to re-charge my own “battery” or when I am looking for a way to help someone else, especially teachers, re-charge theirs! The title of the book is What Great Teachers Do Differently and it contains some real pearls of wisdom about the characteristics of the best teachers in our lives. The book describes their behaviors and attitudes and focuses on the specific things that teachers do that make them great.
In particular, it answers essential questions about their approach to their students, their relationships, and their priorities in the classroom and in school.
So what are the fourteen things that Whittaker says great teachers do differently? He says that:
- Great teachers never forget that it is people, not programs, that determine the quality of a school.
- Great teachers establish clear expectations at the start of the year and follow them consistently.
- When a student misbehaves, great teachers have one goal: to keep that behavior from happening again.
- Great teachers have high expectations for students, but even higher expectations for themselves.
- Great teachers know who is the variable in the classroom: THEY are.
- Great teachers create a positive atmosphere in their classrooms and schools.
- Great teachers consistently filter out the negatives that don’t matter and share a positive attitude.
- Great teachers work hard to keep their relationships in good repair – to avoid personal hurt and to repair any possible damage.
- Great teachers have the ability to ignore trivial disturbances and the ability to respond to inappropriate behavior without escalating the situation.
- Great teachers have a plan and purpose for everything they do.
- Before making any decision or attempting to bring about any change, great teachers ask themselves one central question: “What will the best people think?”
- Great teachers treat everyone as if they are good.
- Great teachers keep testing in perspective.
- Great teachers care about their students and understand the power of emotion to jump-start change.
In this year of challenges, pivots, twists and turns, our community of teachers has demonstrated resilience, commitment, adaptability, and patience and, for that, I am truly grateful. And our students should be, too.
It is not easy to “deliver” on all fourteen of the above “greats” every single day in the middle of a pandemic (…with the ground continually shifting beneath your feet!), but I’ll wager that our Matthews Hall students have experienced the closest thing to a normal year of any elementary student in London since we began our journey in September.
And I am confident I could win that bet!
We’ve got this people! Let’s buckle down and then get back together ASAP!
Ric Anderson, Head of School