A few days ago I made this image on Word Swag and shared to my social media accounts. I was planning for some upcoming professional development and couldn’t keep this thought from rattling around in my brain. My topic is “What makes a good teacher?” I realize the word “good” may not be the best choice here, so feel free to put your own adjective there if it makes you feel better. Great, effective, impactful, and pedagogically sound are equally appropriate in place of “good.”
As I reflected on all of the good teachers I have known and met since I begin this journey in 2001, there was a definite list of qualities that they all had that set them apart from an average educator. They loved their students. The cared about them like their own kids. They invested time and money beyond the classroom. Their lessons were more than a worksheet and textbook. They allowed their students freedom to think, to choose, to learn.
In my current role, my job is to equip, encourage, and empower those in the field to be the absolute best they can be, so I am constantly thinking about what defines excellence in the profession, and I often look back to my own career as a student for wisdom. When I think of the ones who molded me into the adult I became, I just cannot think about one that used an amazing font/graphic filled lesson to teach me. They taught with their heart.
Sometimes I ask teachers that I meet in my PD work to recommend great teachers they admire so I can take notes. They often mention those that they follow on social media or online educator marketplaces. Nothing wrong with mentioning those people. There are lots of great educators on those sites, many of them I know personally or have worked with in a professional setting. There are some incredible teachers fighting for LGBTQ equality and educating about racism and privilege all over my Instagram feed. I have learned so much about being a better teacher from these amazing educators.
Sadly, the answer I get overwhelmingly is when I ask why they recommend the ones they do is, “they make the cutest stuff and have fun activities.”
“The heart of good teaching is that?”, I always ask myself. Surely, there’s more to a good teacher than that, right?
I was accused by someone on my social media for attacking teachers who like to make and create for their lessons. That certainly wasn’t my intent. I love a good font and cute graphic, but unfortunately there is a wave of teacher fame that is highlighting too much cute and not enough depth thanks to the interwebs. There is also a wave of low self esteem, self doubt, and inferiority as well. It is crushing some our of veteran teachers and showing our newest professionals the wrong path to being an impactful educator because they now feel this unnecessary pressure to do fonts and graphics like these teacher celebs online. This “tsunami of cute” as I call it cannot replace the heart of our work. Graphics and fonts will never show kids how much you love them. Can you do both? Possibly. But, if all of your time and energy is focused on likes, followers, sales, and dollars, you are probably not connecting with students like you should be, and maybe, you are missing the whole point.