This fall I am teaching a class. Through good fortune and creative scheduling I get to teach English Literature to 30 very bright students at North Peace Secondary. There are several unique facets to my teaching assignment. I am part of a teaching team that includes the district principal of student learning and the district itinerant for gifted learners. My class includes 14 students with a gifted designation and congregates students who would normally be in grades 9 to 12. It is a very innovative, motivated and unique class.
On the first day of instruction students were asked for advice for teachers. Their journal essay topic for the day (they write 300 - 700 words daily to start each class) was what would they tell teachers about how to better reach their students. Their responses were enlightening. Students wanted their teachers to have a passion for what they taught and to be pleasant and interested in who they taught. There was an understanding that teaching is a tough job, and that adolescent behavior can be challenging to deal with, but overwhelmingly the students emphasized that if teachers obviously liked what they were doing, and enjoyed working with students, students were more likely to enjoy and engage in their class.
One could argue this is a unique group of students, but their advice is supported by considerable research. In their work"What Do Students Expect of Teachers?" J Jones and K P Kwan summed up these ideas as the 3 H approach - Head Hands and Heart. Head represented knowledge of the subject or grade. Having a teacher who knows their stuff gave students confidence that they were in good hands. Hands spoke to a persons teaching skills and management techniques: how well teachers could present materials clearly and systematically, their ability to pitch the teaching at the appropriate level, their creativity and their ability to arouse the interest of the students. Could they encourage students to learn actively and stimulate them to think critically and independently?
Finally, and perhaps most importantly is heart: the appropriate attitudes and values concerning the job of being a teacher. Students want teachers who care about their job AND their students. They don't necessarily want the teacher to be their friend, but they do want the teacher to be cheerful, encouraging and approachable; to enjoy doing what they do and to enjoy being with them.
So far its been easy to take this advice to heart. Being in the classroom is often the best part of my day - and I've let the students know how much I enjoy working with them. In return they have been producing copious quantities of excellent work. The job is not without its challenges. I have a few reluctant and stubborn learners in the class. The marking load is impressive and the time to properly prepare adds hours to my day. However, bringing head heart and hands to work every day is helping me look forward to every class!