When you reach a certain age, some people begin to assume you are old school and have little or nothing to add to the education system. I would like to contend that what I consider Old School has merit today. Here are five Old School behaviors that are as important today as they were forty years ago when I started teaching.
- Planning is essential. This does not mean it has to be on a prescribed form. It does mean that the teacher understands the concepts that will be taught, the misconceptions that students may have, the needs of his or her students, what materials are available and best support the concept, and what questioning and strategies best support the lesson. Winging it forty years ago did not work and it does not work today.
- Relationships matter. The relationship between teachers and students can have a lasting impact on the development of a child. Teachers who have strong bonds with their students are effective in their teaching roles. There are lower levels of behavioral problems and their students achieve higher levels of academic success among students. When students recall their school experiences it is not about diagramming sentences; it is about how that teacher made them feel. Relationships matter then and now.
- Professionalism. Teachers are professionals and as such must look, act and dress the part. As a professional teachers must demonstrate outstanding communication skills when speaking or writing to parents, to students or to peers. Whether we like to or not, we are also judged by how we dress. Dressing down on occasion is fine, but not on a regular basis. I hear many parents discuss how unprofessional some teachers dress and how they feel it influences their child’s attitude toward the teacher. I have also heard students question why the only time their teachers dress nicely are on days when there are parents conference. Professionalism matters.
- Reliability. Showing up and showing up on time is a no-brainer. Showing up on time to meetings, IEPs, and professional development is important. Teachers are not just professionals for a few hours a day—they are professionals at all times. While we all get sick on occasions and have to miss work, absenteeism can have a major impact on student achievement. A substitute cannot deliver instruction the way a well-planned teacher can.
- Expectations. Whether today or forty years ago students will live up to a teacher’s Student achievement is strongly affected by what the teacher expects of them. Many educational researchers have demonstrated this. The first and most famous experiment is the Pygmalion effect. More recently, Robert Marzano found that when teachers have high expectations of students they act differently. They call on them more often, wait longer for their answers, and give them more opportunities to succeed. Those teachers who expect more of students get more from them.
Call me Old School, but what works forty years ago still works today.