Monday, March 4, 2013

Flexibility and Humility



All semester in the Math Technology class I have been telling students that the most important quality to have as a teacher is to be flexible.  This is probably even more important with all of the latest technology.  We all know that technology doesn’t always work so you need to be flexible and handle a hiccup in your plan well.  Of course, this means that you should probably always have a back-up plan.
As I am approaching the end of my 20th year of teaching, another quality that I think is very important to have is humility.  I am pretty certain that I didn’t always have a lot of that in my early years of teaching, and I don’t think that I was a very good teacher then.  While it is essential to be the content expert in your classroom, you should not take that as a ticket to be arrogant.  There is a difference between confidence and arrogance.  Think back to any teachers that you had that you disliked; do they have anything in common?  Were they arrogant? 
Here are 10 signs of arrogance, http://www.theladders.com/career-advice/10-ways-tell-confident-arrogant .  Read this closely and you will see that several of them are things that a teacher should never do: 
2.  Avoid eye contact.  As a teacher, eye contact is a must to make connections with your students and to determine if students understand the material.
4.  Use condescending phrases and put-downs.  Never put down your students as then they will no longer participate in class.  Participation is the key to student engagement.
6.  Interrupt conversations...frequently.  Never interrupt a student who is offering an idea on how to solve a problem.  Be courteous to everyone even if they are incorrect.  You can politely tell them they are wrong, such as, “that is an interesting idea, but I don’t think it will work.”
7.  Have an answer for everything.  Class should be more about questions than answers.  How will students learn if you don’t let them find their own answers?
10.  Blame someone else.  If you make a mistake, own it.  Students will have more respect for you if you can admit that you are wrong.  And trust me, you will be wrong!
I am truly enjoying teaching the Math Technology course this semester.  I think that both flexibility (I don’t have the semester outlined) and humility ( I admit when I don’t know something) have played a role in my enjoyment of the course. 
My last bit of advice to a teacher is to plan to learn from your students—they have taught me more this semester than I have taught them.  This is yet another reason that I enjoy the class.