Guest post by Todd Norton (Cross post from toddnorton.me)
If there is one thing I have learned as a teacher, it is that someone outside of the classroom is always willing to tell you what the golden ticket is to fix education. In the last few months I have sat through keynotes on the merits of having every student be a part of the makered movement. I have heard the need for every student to learn to code. Yesterday I read a blog post about the necessity for every student to learn robotics. We are told, through social media and the presentation circuit, that every classroom should be a flipped classroom, students should be blogging, and we all should be moving to either a one-to-one environment or a BYOD (bring your own device) system. Inside the system we are to focus on the common core, and now the buzz is to have every student college and career ready- whatever that means.
What I have seen is that teachers are overwhelmed. Teaching is a grind that can wear even the best teachers down. It's easy to preach what needs to happen and teachers feel the pressure of trying to stay on the cutting edge- always chasing the next big thing. Reality is, the best teachers are the ones who focus on two things; loving their students and challenging their students to think beyond themselves. They do not have to be the most technically advanced, or even the teacher who understands the current youth culture. For lasting impact, students need someone who is going to know their name and care about their life. They also need someone who is going to expand their mind, and push them to think critically.
It doesn't matter what subject matter a teacher is teaching. Any teacher has the ability to do those two things. However, it takes someone strong enough to keep their focus on what matters. There will be push back, criticism, and a lot of self-doubt. I know, I've experienced it all. There will also be great reward. Students will see you in Walmart years from now and take a moment to thank you. If you're lucky enough, they will write you a letter that you keep in your bag, just in case you need a reminder that you made a difference. Teaching fads will come and go, but if you focus first on the students, everything else will fall into place.