I used to think being an educator was about me.
My career as a school teacher made it all-too convenient to think any other way. Children were intrigued, intimidated, curious, fascinated. The positive adult attention provided doses of confidence from students, parents, and staff.
Whatever you do, don’t make this mistake. Make it about them, not about you.
Not following this advice will result in one thing: a missed opportunity.
This is more important than ever. Schools of the past have had a reputation for being about adults. Schools of the future are about learners, learning, and ways adults can design and facilitate students’ critical thinking. Choosing to be learner-oriented and responsive to students is casting a vote for the future.
How do you avoid becoming a self-centered educator, like I was?
While it takes some retraining of our bad habits, it’s easier than you might think.
#1. Stop using the “I-word”.
Beginning sentences with the word, I, keeps the conversation focused on…you.
Instead, use you (or better yet, we), and watch the focus shift. Re-imagine our role as “helpers” and watch the confidence of others’ grow. Build collective efficacy by inviting like-minded and complementary minded individuals into a shared space. Shifting from “me” to “we” will adjust lenses and shift viewpoints.
#2. Stop telling.
We’re all learners, whether in school or life. When adults are “tellers” and children are “learners”, perspective in inhibited. Instead, ask more questions. Establish space between questions and answers. And foster opportunities for students to generate their own questions, ask one another to share dialogue.
#3. Start listening.
Listening is quickly becoming a “lost art”. However, there’s still time. Focus on creating reliable spaces for student voice. Host regular community circles. And engage in practices like two-sided journals, turn-and-talks, and jigsaw protocols.
If you are, like I was, a self-centered teacher, there’s always time to start over. Using words like we, asking more questions, and positioning oneself as a listener are three simple ways to build a new, “others-focused” habit. As an educator who’s come a long way, and still, has a long way to go, it’s worth it.