Every single person has a teacher they remember, for good or bad reasons.
The teachers who influenced us positively seemed to get us, showed an interest in us or made us believe we could do more, or be more.
They invested in us.
Today, the role of the teacher isn’t simply to stand up the front and pass on information. If it was we could simply sit down and let Google take over.
The role of a teacher is to be the bridge between information and knowledge.
The style and effectiveness of this bridge can come in many forms.
Some bridges are rickety and worn away at the edges. Think of those teachers that sit behind their
fortress desk and simply hand out the same worksheet for everyone to complete in absolute silence.
Meanwhile other bridges are continually being rebuilt using relevant and worthwhile techniques, insights and abilities.
These are the teachers who not only seek to improve their teaching abilities using ongoing professional learning, and aren’t afraid of making mistakes in the process of improving their learning and teaching. Think of those teachers who were genuine, made you stop looking at the clock on the wall and had you genuinely engaged.
I don’t know about you, but if I’m about to cross a bridge I would definitely prefer the one that is updated and reinforced…not the one that worked alright twenty years ago and has slowly degraded since.
Now, being constantly upgraded and refined every year doesn’t guarantee success.
That’s where the style of the bridge comes in. (Stick with me on this final part of the bridge analogy).
If you had the choice of many, many bridges to cross, you would probably choose the one that best captures your attention. The one you like the look of, are interested in and feel some sort of connection with.
Now, imagine a bridge that not only is constantly upgraded and reinforced throughout the year, but can change it’s appearance based on whoever is looking at it, or crossing it.
That is exactly what great mentors and teachers do.
Every single day, of every single year, they adapt the way they connect and appear to those within their care…those teachers who can read and respond to a situation and person in a considerate, supportive or appropriate way.
Take, for example, that teacher who doesn’t grill a kid for arriving 10 minutes late.
Why? Because they had invested time in the kid and know more their background. They know he was is 10 years old, gets public transport for 30 minutes on his own to school because his Mum still can’t afford a family car.
The moment that kid enters the room he is greeted warmly, eye contact is provided and he is welcomed into the room. He is then politely informed about what learning is taking place before the attention is moved back onto the class.
Respect, care and dignity are paramount…as is the high expectation of the teacher to maximise everyone’s opportunities for learning in the room.
That’s what personalised bridges are about: seeing the person for who they are and responding in the best way possible.
After all, why would you cross over a dangerous passage unless you truly believed the bridge would be able to hold you up and not let you fall?
3 Simple Ways to Build The Strongest Bridge
1. Ask people what has been happening and actually listen to their answers (you may not get much to begin with, but over time you will get given amazing insights!)
2. Greet people with their name in a friendly, positive tone of voice
3. Start and end your day with students with a smile…you set the tone!
5 Replies to “The One Thing The Best Teachers and Mentors All Do”
Love reading your reflections, Dan! Your 3 Simple Ways to Build The Strongest Bridge are indeed very simple, because they are after all, common social courtesies. I cannot help but reflect on the fact that they are not only missing from some classrooms, but also missing from many staffrooms.
Sometimes we forget the importance of modelling what we want to see, hear and feel…
I was lucky to have some great mentors early in my career who really showed me ways to do this – right Jan?!
Taking the time to care and understand each kid in the classroom can make a lifetime difference to their mental health. So simple really but often overlooked. Love the example of the kid who’s late for class Dan.
It’s so important to remember that sometimes there’s other things going on beyond what is happening in our classrooms! (Though keeping that in mind and actually remembering that is the tricky/key part!)