Do you have a favorite teacher? Do you recall what made your favorite teacher special?
The best teachers help us become the people we are capable of becoming. They encourage us to stretch and instill in us the confidence we need to achieve. They might even inspire us to fall in love with learning, which is quite useful in a time where lifelong learning is a prerequisite for success. The best teachers are a gift.
Turns out, exceptional teachers follow certain patterns according to the research about What Makes a Great Teacher:
First, great teachers set big goals for their students. They are also perpetually looking for ways to improve their own effectiveness. … Great teachers … constantly reevaluate what they are doing.”
Superstar teachers have a few other tendencies in common: they avidly recruited students and their families into the process; they maintained focus, ensuring that everything they did contributed to student learning; they planned exhaustively and purposefully—for the next day or the year ahead—by working backward from the desired outcome; and they worked relentlessly, refusing to surrender to the combined menaces of bureaucracy, and budgetary shortfalls.
I am around both leaders and teachers regularly, given that training and development is a big focus of my work. The best teachers I know aspire to make a difference. In fact, teaching isn’t just what they do. It’s part of who they are. The best leaders I know are often very good teachers.
My favorite teacher embodies all of these characteristics and a few more. As good fortune would have it, I also got her outside of the classroom. Still do.
My favorite teacher, Mrs. Estis to everyone else, was always just Mom to me. Retired from the classroom, she is enjoying her second career (or hobby … hard to tell the difference) as an artist and is still “perpetually looking for ways to improve her own effectiveness.” Today that looks like two art classes a week and a growing, impressive body of work. (I have included a few of my favorites below.) The artist was always inside the teacher. That is part of what makes learning from her such a meaningful and memorable experience. It is worth noting the best teachers (and leaders) are often deeply committed to their own pursuit of lifelong learning.
I’ll be heading home for the Thanksgiving holiday, which means a little red wine and quality time with half of my life coaching team. We’ll reflect on the past, embrace the moment and imagine the future we want to create. Those conversations will cover a lot of territory, and I’ll benefit from the wisdom and insight from the teacher that knows me best.
I’ll also pause to consider how I can better serve and share ideas and insight worthy of your time and attention going forward. 2013 is beginning to take shape and I am excited about our plans for the coming year.
Have a great holiday!