Many times my students write me notes or draw pictures that I often post on my wall saying that I was their “Best Teacher Ever!” Although flattering as it may sound, some students are at a loss for words to describe the ways in which they feel valued in my class and this sentiment, “best teacher ever” may be the most articulate way to describe their content. But might we delve deeper into what students are thinking and help them to articulate precisely what it means to be their best teacher ever?
When I speak about being the “Best Teacher Ever” what I am really getting at are those specific things that we can do as educators that allow children to feel safe in an environment where they can learn and grow. As teachers, we can ask students to describe how our role might best support them in their learning.
Each year I invite my students to share with me the specific things they need me to do in order to support their learning. Although many are tempted to suggest unrealistic and simply untenable demands, once the sillies are out, students can and will articulate precisely what they feel would support them as a learner. After all, they are experts on themselves.
Pictured is the posted success criteria that I worked towards achieving every day in order to serve my students. This was developed by my Grade 5/6 combined class at the beginning of the school year. I asked my students what they needed in order to be a successful student in my class. They articulated that I could best serve them by honouring their need for movement and providing opportunities to collaborate in groups while at the same time valuing independent work experiences. Students articulated the need for music that would help them focus and to have access to technology that would complement their learning. Most importantly, students articulated that they didn’t want me to take life too seriously and noted that telling jokes was an integral part of their experience.
Throughout the year when the “Best Teacher Ever” sentiments came along, students were able to describe was working. “Ms. Nelson, It really helped when you used the examples.” “Ms. Nelson we really need that power-walk during this long work period.” “Ms. Nelson singing that song about similes and metaphors really helped me understand the difference.” When students said, “Ms. Nelson you are the best teacher ever!” I know what they meant. I knew the standard to which they were holding me accountable. I knew because I asked.