Teaching through multiple perspectives

Teachers share opinions on qualities that help students succeed

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Teaching through multiple perspectives

Artwork by Nhun Mawi.

Artwork by Nhun Mawi.

Artwork by Nhun Mawi.

Artwork by Nhun Mawi.

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Teachers work long hours Monday through Friday each week for about nine months. During this time, they often make positive impacts on their students. English and AVID teacher Dixie Turnbull, art teacher Eric Champion and history teacher Bessie Alexander are just a few teachers who stand out to students on a daily basis for being insightful, positive teachers.

Although, teaching wasn’t the first career choice for any of them. Despite working other jobs previously, they all knew they wanted to have a career where they would be able to work and communicate with others.

“This is my third career,” Champion said. “I’ve done lots of jobs. But when I decided it was time to change, I knew that I wanted to help people. I’m not afraid of public speaking, and I like to talk. Teaching seemed to fit all of those things.”

Even though Turnbull’s initial career choice wasn’t teaching, she does believe in the importance of having a passion to teach.

“Teaching is a profession where you have to be ‘on’ every day, and if you are not, then the students can tell,” Turnbull said. “The only way that you can manage to keep up your energy and maintain your sanity is to teach from the heart first.”

For some teachers, including Turnbull, the best part of any day is when a student feels accomplished.

“[What I like most] is seeing the kids succeed or do something they didn’t think they could do,” Turnbull said. “I think that each and every student who feels like he or she has been successful, overcome a struggle, or found something great about themselves through the course of my class is when I find my greatest accomplishment lived out repeatedly.”

Forming positive relationships with students creates a more connected learning environment, which is an important aspect all teachers should be aware of.

“I think students should know that a teacher is there to support them, guide them and mentor them [in addition to the academic work], and I think that the teacher needs to remember the difference between friendship and mentoring,” Turnbull said.

No matter the relationships students may have with their teachers, they’re still likely to get off task at some point. To help keep students focused, Champion sets up difficult tasks for students. The goal while playing any game is to accomplish and win, and Champion carries this concept into his classroom.

“You have to challenge them just enough,” Champion said. “Like playing a video game.”

Self-aware teachers know that despite whatever strong qualities they bring to the classroom, improvement can always be made. Some teachers, including Alexander, have a hard time managing their time.

“I tend to give all of my time to anyone who needs it,” Alexander said. “I arrive early and I stay late, I work through my lunches and I allow students more time than I should to turn in work.”

It’s important to realize teachers are just like their students on many levels; they have their bad days too. It’s how teachers handle these days that make a difference to students.

“I just experienced a tragic death in the family and it really got to me at times,” Alexander said. “When I first arrived to class the morning after receiving the news, I had red, swollen eyes. I did not lie to my students about having just cried my eyes out. I explained there had been a death and to please bear with me and I would get through it.”

Even though teachers try their best to have positive experiences with students, they will still regularly have negative comments directed toward them.

“I call them out immediately, identifying that they are being disrespectful and that I have done nothing to deserve it,” Alexander said. “I expect it to stop, otherwise there is the door and don’t let it hit you in the butt on your way out.”

Regardless of the relationships formed, teachers hope their students are successful.

“I hope my students say that I care about who they are as people, push them academically, and help them to find their own personal definition of success,” Turnbull said.

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