There are many teachers in the world. Lots of them are great teachers. Among the great teachers, quite a lot are outstanding.
In my desire to better meet students’ needs and become a better teacher every year, I have encountered many marverlous teachers. If opportunities allow, I love to observe them in action, or attend their workshops and presentations, read their books or blogs, or talk to them in person. After a while, I have noticed a pattern that all amazing teachers share. Here, I’m going to share three.
This summer, I was very fortunate to be able to attend the Project Zero Classroom Summer Institute (PZC18) at Harvard. Nearly 400 educators came from 67 different countries and 20 different states. The intellectual stimulus and engagement, the diverse cultural and ethical background of the participants, the fascinating conversation I had and the lectures I heard from the educational icons such as Howard Gardner, David Perkins, Ron Ritchhart, Tina Blythe… had all contributed to my daily experience beyond being blissful. However, what truly was awe-inspiring was being a witness of these giants’ humanity.
During a book-signing session, Many PZC authors were presented. The line for Howard Gardner stood all the way outside of the library lobby. Gardner, with a head of shinning white hair, a sincere smile and a calm demeanor, took his time to chat with his fans and stroke a short conversation as meaningful as time would allow. He never rushed anyone, nor only asked about your name in order to write on the page. When it was my turn, he smiled at me first and then said: “What do you do?”
“I’m a language teacher, I teach Chinese.”
In his best effort to start a meaningful conversation, he continued: “I heard that learning Chinese is difficult, especially, to master the writing system.”
Being a TCI teacher and Stephen Krashen’s follower, of course, not only I have a different answer, I have a totally different perspective based on my own students’ experience. Therefore, the nerdy side of me started to explain to him about Comprehensible Input and why everyone can acquire language at any time. How easy and fun TCI has made for students to acquire Chinese…
He listened with a big smile on his face, truly engaged and I felt I was so valued in front of this educational giant. The humanity in him brought me into tears that night when I was meditating. For an outstanding teacher, there is no important student or powerless student, there is no good student or bad student, there is only a human who is seeking knowledge and striving to develop intellectually, psychologically as well as socially. An outstanding teacher is like everyday heroes, she’s there to support, value, recognize, calm, inspire, nurture and mentor… a learner.
Anyone who uses embedded reading might have heard of Laurie Clarcq and Michelle Whaley. These two are amazing TCI teachers who were the inventors of the embedded reading. Laurie Clarcq has a unique story to share regarding how she started with embedded reading. She had a student, Justin, in her class. Everyday he came in with a hood on, sat in the back, head on the desk… Justin was an unbreakable wall, there were only walls surrounding him. One time, Laurie asked her Spanish class to write something. Justin did some bare minimal work in comparison to his more proficient and fluent Spanish classmates. Laurie didn’t despised his meager production. On the contrary, she cherished it! She cut out the sentences he wrote, along with others, pasted together and created a reading piece. By the time Justin figured out his own writing had become a part of a reading, that was the true transformational marker when Justin started to get involved in class, put down the hood and let down his guard… Laurie is a true embodiment of humanity and empathy. As Dalai Lama has said, “Many of the problems we face today are our own creation. Creating a more peaceful world requires a peaceful mind and a peaceful heart. As human brothers and sisters we must live together in tolerance and affection.” Amazing teachers teach with empathy, let’s become one of them.
We live in a culture where people idolize big heroes and anticipate catastrophe to happen, therefore, one or two individuals could shine through. However, people typically ignore small heroes in life. In my opinion, it is much more challenging to be an everyday hero. An everyday hero is super courageous and patient. They are the one who challenges the status quo, they act based on their conscious, they don’t follow rules blindly. They are the ones who have often been ignored and unrecognized, however, they do what’s right, not for a show.
The most important aspect about everyday heroes is that they are courageous at pushing themselves out of their comfort zone and striving to become better daily. Amazing teachers never stop learning. They don’t cover up their vulnerability and pretend to be a giant. They foster their skills by grasping on all possible opportunities to learn and share. That’s why many of them are attending conferences, workshops, online learning communities and take classes… That’s why a conference like Comprehensible Midwest (CIMW) exists .
Comprehensible Input Midwest conference was born out of passion, in a dear effort to provide equal, equitable and inclusive professional development to everyday teachers. We are projecting 350 attendees at CIMW18 this fall. 40 partial scholarship will be awarded to 40 Chinese teachers who register and attend the conference. 25 scholarship spots have been filled, only 15 remains as I’m typing tonight.