A Tireless Teacher: Plan, Teach, Adjust, Repeat

The Department of Education caught some heat a week or so ago when the following Mao Zedong quote was posted on a DOE site for kids: "Our attitude towards ourselves should be 'to be satiable in learning' and towards others 'to be tireless in teaching.'" In the future, they'll probably spend a moment more when considering the sources of their blurbs, but the inspiration of this message isn't half bad.

Are students today striving for excellence the way we tend to think they did when we were young? Are we as educators "tireless in teaching" because we can't give up on a single student?

Last week, I was in the neighborhood of the school where a tireless elementary teacher-friend of mine teachers. It was about 3pm, so I decided the timing might be right for a quick dropby. She was just wrapping up class for the day when she looked up and shared her gentle smile. After the intercom permitted the last kids to leave, I greeted her and questioned how her day had gone. She breathed a sigh of relief that said more about her successes with students due to carefully crafted lessons than it did about the exhaustion she was surely feeling. This teacher, like many great instructors, worked longer hours without quite enough classroom support than she preferred. We're nearing the finishline of the school year so I'm sure that was wearing on her, but I didn't see that bubbling behind her eyes. Sure, an instructional coach to help when she had questions about a lesson plan would be great. Another adult to help her when she divides students into small guided reading groups? What a dream!

Instead, this tireless teacher makes due with what she has and spends her time thinking of how she can reach each of her students. I've seen her in action and she pulls from the same Web sites and apps and resources that other teachers do, but she puts such thought into her planning that the teaching (aided by her excited/contagious/soothing/kind nature) comes to her almost effortlessly. Her style compels her students to become "satiable in learning."

We spoke for a moment after she attended a short staff meeting. While walking back to her classroom, she shared a funny story about a kid finally understanding some simple addition concept. As I turned to leave, I told her to have a nice evening. She had already declined my offer to get her a drink somewhere nearby because she wanted to capture some thoughts she had when considering how she might improve one of the lessons she taught that day.

When I told her I was writing a blog post and that she was the inspiration, she asked that I not use her name, so "Tireless Teacher" she is. Finding time to create strong standards-based lessons before executing solid teaching are part of her tirelessness. Finishing up with a reflection and adjustment moment only helps her get better.

But the thing that sticks with me is how every time Tireless Teacher talks to me, she shares stories that prove her heart is focused on her students achieving more than they think they're capable of achieving. She also has a life outside of teaching, but she lives to help kids learn. Tireless Teacher won't rest until the current batch succeeds and the next batch is delivered to her...and she helps that batch succeed and receives a new class the year after...

Thus the tireless teacher cycle continues.

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