In the previous 3 posts, we touched on the various stages of teaching, “Fantasy,” “Survival,” & “Mastery.” This final installment will highlight the impact every teacher strives to achieve through their teaching career. What defines impact? and, “When will you see the impact you’ve made” are both aspects we will touch on briefly in this post.
What defines “impact?” – It begins with how you start your 1st day in class. It can be as be as important as how you speak to students’ problems, or, even as mundane as how you draw a smiley face on their papers. In short, everything you do can be impactful. There are 4 areas that you should consider in order for you to have a positive impact on your students. These 4 are: You, mastery of content, teaching style, communication.
When it comes to yourself, when I shifted my attire from that of a thoub to that of suit and tie, I immediately felt that students took me more seriously. When I stood up and taught and moved around the classroom, the impact on student attention retention was much higher compared to me sitting in the back with them working on a worksheet. The way how you behave and interact with students have a greater impact than you can imagine. Students will forget about the content you taught. But your personality and behavior leaves an indelible mark on their minds. For me, I have a very peculiar personality. In the beginning almost all students are scared of me. A few call me “mean” outright. But because Islamic studies is taken as a joke by many students, I must have something that makes my class wholly mine. A few quirks of mine include my love for cat videos, funny expressions and lightening responses to anything they say or do. A teacher with character creates for themselves a unique persona. A teacher who is dull and boring will grind their classroom culture to a slow churn. But because my funny personality outshines whatever initial stern composure I have, my students slowly but surely are able to handle my pointed criticism for them to improve and see my lighter side.
Mastery of Content – You cannot become a creative teacher until you master the content. Creative juices only flow when your brain is free from worry about remembering the content for yourself. If you aren’t a master at your content, at least read on what you’re going to teach well in advance. Read here for more information on how to become a master.
Teaching Style – One thing I’ve learned about teaching is that it’s not about how elaborate your activity is, but whether or not they comprehend the information. There are subjects that are downright boring. You will have days where you find your lesson to be ghastly dry. But an impactful teacher is one who is able to think creatively outside the box. Many teachers love to give out worksheets. These worksheets are good at times, but they don’t teach anything. It’s all about the delivery. Focus not on regurgitating information but more on creating something that causes them to think. I always try to bring outside materials to make them compare and contrast the lesson at hand with something that impacts them. Making them create and draw those lines of creativity will have a lasting impact on their intellectual formation.
Communication – How you communicate with students are seen by all. Parents, students from other grades, teachers, staff and your administration are all witnesses to this. Establish a strong and trusting line of communication between the students and parents on the first day. How you speak to students who push your buttons will have an impact on how they react to you. Make sure you follow up with parents when situations require their attention is also very important. Speak to the students in a firm by respectful way. Expect them to make mistakes in their communication skills. But as long as you are consistent and set the bar high, you can eliminate miscommunication and arguing. Do not stifle them. Be open to have activities where discussions take place. You will be surprised.
When do you see the impact? It is very critical to remember that you cannot possible impact everyone in your class. In fact, you will probably never see your impact until many years down the line. Some students reach out to their former teachers and they usually have something positive in their minds about them and how they impacted them. But for now, there are always those who find your class boring. And no matter your efforts, they won’t do much work. That does not mean that you are a failure. But sometimes it’s how you behave with goodness towards students that truly impacts them. Never discredit any good you do. You never know how you might inspire them one day. I once received a message from a former student of mine who had left my school to go to public school. In general she was not vocal about her thoughts. I never knew what she thought of my class or its content. But it was only months later did I find an email message from her sharing her pleasant thoughts with me. This past year, I was humbled to know that one of my students now desires to be an Islamic studies teacher when she grows up. I pray that her path to this goal is blessed and fruitful. It’s these moments that make your heart warm with love.