5 Characteristics of Phenomenal Educators

The other day I was talking to a good friend of mine, also a principal, about the recruiting process and what we look for in teachers as we go through the many CVs and interviews.  While we both agreed that there is no magic formula for finding excellent teachers, we did settle on a few characteristics that we look for while we’re going through the search process.  I wanted to share those with you today because I believe it’s good to take time to stop and think about ourselves from a more holistic perspective, which I’m encouraging you to do.  

  1. They are a “striver”.  I used to use the term ‘hustler’ but was never happy with that for various reasons.  However, when I imagine a teacher who is always giving their best effort to grow, improve, and help their kids succeed I get this image of a teacher who is constantly working hard and doing anything possible to get better.  A teacher who is consistently putting forth effort to improve and be better for their students is a striver, and someone I would want to hire!  (I took the term ‘striver’ from a book by Angela Duckworth, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.  Here is a cool piece that explains the idea of ‘striver’ vs ‘natural’ in a musical context.)
  2. They have balance.  It’s one thing to be a striver but it’s a total other thing to be someone who works themselves into the ground.  There is a saying that I learned from a mentor of mine that goes, “If you’re solely committed to an institution, you should be.”  The idea is, making work your only focus is completely insane.  Education is a non-stop pursuit and if you dedicated every minute of your life to it for the rest of your days, it still wouldn’t be perfect.  We need to know where to draw the line and find the balance in our lives so that we are able to work hard for our students, day in and day out, while still living our own lives beyond the walls of the school.
  3. They are positive.  This one is hard to see on a CV but it certainly shines through in an interview.  No one wants to work with people who are constantly finding problems, complaining, and bringing the overall culture of a school down.  Positivity goes a long way in any business but I believe it goes even further in a school community.  Kids are naturally positive people, why should adults be any different?
  4. They are diverse.  People demonstrate diversity in a lot of different ways.  Having a wide variety of experiences, teaching a variety of subjects and/or grade levels, supporting various extracurriculars, and showing your range as an educator, are all great ways to stand out.  People with diverse experiences tend to have more open minds about challenges and opportunities that may arise unexpectedly.  This kind of flexibility is invaluable, especially in international schools!  
  5. They love working with kids.  Again, this is tough to see on a CV but completely obvious when it comes to interviews.  Educators who love working with kids show it as soon as they start talking about their jobs.  Their eyes light up as they tell stories of their students and their energy immediately increases.  Teachers who truly love working with kids, while seemingly common, are much harder to find than most people would think.  

There are many more attributes displayed by great teachers but when I meet someone who displays these particular characteristics in a truly authentic way it is clear that I’ve found an absolute diamond in the rough.  

Take a moment today to consider yourself from a different perspective.  Try to step back and ‘zoom out’ a bit.  How do you view yourself as an educator?

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Shining Bright: Inspiring, Guiding, and Mentoring Future Stars

Happy Monday everyone!!!

It’s been four weeks since the kids arrived at school and I couldn’t be more impressed.  We have a school full of kind, motivated, and hardworking young men and women.  The OSIS Yule Ball was a wonderful showcase for some of the amazing students we are so lucky to teach.  The organization, communication, and foresight required to successfully put together a 200 person event is incredible.  OSIS members shined bright on Saturday night as did a few of their peers who performed on stage, sharing their talents as musicians and dancers.  However, it is important to note that while some of our students were shining bright there were others who were lingering on the fringes watching and hoping to one day achieve similar success.  Another great thing about our school (and all schools for that matter) is that we have a wide range of kids; from those who’ve found their passions to those who’ve never looked for their own.  A beautiful thing about being an educator is that, no matter what students’ talents or skills may be today, we have the opportunity to help them find their chance to, one day, shine brightly.

As I was lucky enough to see this weekend, some of our students already shine brightly in certain areas, you know who they are.  They receive the attention from their peers, teachers, and the community.  They are praised for their skills and talents, yet they (probably) still desire to grow and improve.  But what could these students possibly need?  They need mentoring.  How many stories are there of the student who was talented and adored in high school only to flame out and “go no where”?  Too many.  These students need mentors who can show them how to continue growing while also pursuing other passions, creating a diverse skill set to draw upon in the future.   While these students most certainly aren’t making anyone hit the panic button they are still in need of support and attention.  Skills and talent don’t grow in a vacuum, hard work and guidance are essential for anyone to succeed.  If these students’ stars are going to continue to shine, they’ll need support and mentoring to keep the flames of passion burning.

While some of our students have already identified areas of ‘brightness’ there are many who’ve just only discovered their area(s) of passion.  These students need more than just mentoring, they’ve chipped off the tip of the iceberg but have a long way to go to understand the depth of opportunity ahead.  To have found something to be passionate about at such a young age is an awesome thing; with the time and energy to devote to a passion there is no limit to the potential for greatness.  However, as we all know, young minds can wander and stray from their paths.  As educators we can help guide students along the journey toward their goals.  We can help students grow their skills and talents in a focused manner as they pursue their passions.  These students may not need motivational speeches, but rather guidance and coaching in order to make their stars shine brightly.  This group, largest in number amongst our students, is on the right track and are fun to work with as they pursue and further explore their new found passions in an effort to, one day, shine brightly themselves.

Every student has that ‘brightness’ inside of them, the ability to shine in something (or many things).  While many of our students have already discovered their ‘brightness’ and have begun to shine in certain areas, others still appear to be searching.  What about, however, those who have never searched for their passions, have given up searching, or are convinced that they have no ‘brightness’?  They need inspiration, they need someone to believe in them, or they might just need the right opportunity to come along.  We can be all of those things for our students.  We can light those fires, we can show them we believe in them and we can open doors to opportunity.  Our job as educators includes a mighty dose of motivational speaker/inspirational leader.  When students enter our classrooms they are there, not only to learn, but also to be inspired – help our students to find that inspiration.

Academically, all of our students need us in a variety of ways, we differentiate the classroom to meet the needs of all learners.  The exact same thing is true of their social-emotional needs.  If our students aren’t motivated and inspired, then their ability to learn is limited – there is a ceiling.  Getting to know your students, showing them you care, and sharing how much you value learning are all ways to help motivate and inspire your students.  If they can’t see the passion inside of you they’ll never see it inside of themselves.  Let your passions shine bright, then light the path of inspiration for our students stopping along the way to guide and mentor those who’ve already joined you on the journey.

 

A few great motivational speakers worth watching:

Rita F. Pierson:  Every Kid Needs a Champion (Straight from a teacher’s heart)

Nick Vujicic (He’s got a lot of awesome videos and an amazing heart)

Matt Foley (for a good laugh)

Seeing the Invisible

Sometimes we can’t see diversity.

Often times we consider diversity to be something that we see or hear on the outside…skin color, languages spoken, or other “physical” traits.  

During our Senior Roll Call, as each of our seniors was welcomed by the song of their choosing, what I’m calling “invisible diversity” was on display.  From Metallica, to David Bowie, to Drake, to Elvis and everything in between.  We had K-Pop, traditional Chinese songs, and Ecuadorean ballads.  Our students were each able to choose their own song which goes to show the wide range of interests that our students hold.  This example of “invisible diversity” is, perhaps, the number one reason that we need to get to know our students on a personal level!  

As educators it’s easy to group our students and place them into a category.  The “artists”, the “athletes”, the “academics”, the “musicians”…but who are these people beyond what we think we see?  Many of our students (or people in general) don’t fit neatly into any one group in particular.  Some of our best athletes are also strong musicians, artists, academics, and much more.  On the other hand, some of the kids who aren’t our top academics have talents and interests outside of school.  But how would we know if we don’t take the chance to get to know our kids on a personal level?  

I’ve mentioned this before, don’t be afraid to take some class time to set the content aside and learn (and share) some personal information about these young people that you work with 210 minutes (sometimes more) each week. Teaching is more than disseminating content, it’s about knowing our students and building connections.  

I know it’s the end of the year, this may be more relevant at the beginning of the school, but it’s worth considering at any time.  Since it was the Senior Roll Call music that inspired my thinking about “invisible diversity” I thought I would share the songs from the whole playlist…enjoy 🙂

* A word of caution…while our students selected a 1 minute and 15 section of these songs with all “clean” words, some of the full songs include “explicit lyrics”.

In order of appearance…

Build Me Up Buttercup – The Foundations

Let’s Go – Khalid

마에스트로 (Maestro) – 창모 (Changmo)

Strange Charm:  A Song About Quarks – Hank Green

The Fratellis – Chelsea Dagger

Anillos De Saturno – Danny Fornaris Feat. Jani Sanchez

Daddy – Psy

Modern Love – David Bowie

Me Llamas – Piso 21

Jump in the Fire – Metallica

Headlines – Drake

All My Love – Led Zeppelin

Empire Ants – Gorillaz Feat. Little Dragon

Everyday Superhero – Smash Mouth

‘에라 모르겠다(FXXK IT)’ M/V – BIGBANG

Walking on a Dream – Empire of the Sun

Yo Naci Aqui – Juan Fernando Velasco

1901 – Phoenix

Come On Eileen – Dexy’s Midnight Runners & Kevin Rowland

醉赤壁 Zui Chi Bi – 林俊杰 JJ Lin Jun Jie

Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen

Fire – Gavin DeGraw

La Dueña De Tu Amor – Marala Feat. Zion & Lennox

Il Mio Cammino – Phil Collins

Tu Mejor Error – AU-D

La Isla Del Amor – Demarco Flamenco

Eres Mi Sueño – Fonseca

Mi Testimonio aka El Edificio – Bacilos

Burning Love – Elvis Presley

Someday – The Strokes

Sugar – Maroon 5

Lo Mejor De Mi Vida Eres Tu – Ricky Martin Feat. Natalia Jimenez

Oh My God – A Tribe Called Quest

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell