The Heart of Teaching

--Originally published at Flipped Learning

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I'm often asked what makes a teacher great? Is it the way they can manage a classroom of 25 six-year olds? Or is it the way they can engage 20 sophomores in math class for 45 minutes? Perhaps it's the technology used by the middle school science teacher that encourages students' creativity and innovation? Yes, all of these aspects of teaching are important. However, what you often don't get to see in the greatest of teachers is their heart!

While success in a classroom is often measured by grades and attendance, the heart of teaching isn't quite measured for years, even decades later. Students will enter our classroom doors daily, bringing with them a wide variety of hopes, skills, dreams, passions, strengths, troubles, fears, and history. The greatest of teachers embrace all of these attributes and find a way to encourage each and every student to use them to their advantage. There is an understanding of mutual respect that is built upon the foundation of trust between student and teacher.
The greatest of teachers understand their classrooms might be a safe haven, a place of escape for some students. They know when to push and when to be the ear to listen. They see their students as individuals with a variety of skills and talents, waiting to bloom when given the right environment to succeed. They understand the various hats they may wear and how each hat supports students differently. They willingly come in early and stay late to prepare their classrooms and content for all levels of learners they will encounter.
These teachers look at change not as a hurdle to overcome, but an opportunity to be unique. Opportunities to help all students succeed in a world that often pushes them aside. Opportunities to help other teachers see students for who they are today, not who they were last year. Opportunities of hope for a future that is vastly different than the world of education we often witness. Opportunities to collaborate and share across a multitude of platforms. Opportunities to listen to suggestions, offer input, and stand up for students that are under served. 
All of us have that one teacher that simply stood out from everyone else. They seemed to understand us on a different level and we could just relate to them. The heart of teaching doesn't simply happen over night. It takes years of practice, years of observing, and a noble effort to truly put students first. The greatest of teachers don't often know the impact they are having because it isn't until years later that students come back and thank them for their passion, joy, and love for teaching and treating them with respect. Ironically, they often don't want to, or need to be, recognized for the work they do because they believe it's simply the right thing to do!

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