Students have definite opinions when it comes to what they need in a teacher. How can we make sure we deliver on teacher excellence?
As leaders and managers in schools, we know that teachers also need to have time for self-reflection and personal and professional growth. If our focus is on providing relevant support to teachers with a good understanding of resilience and its beneficial impact on psychological wellbeing, then support structures for teachers are strengthened and our teachers can flourish.
Teacher feedback in recent PESA (Positive Education Schools Association) studies has indicated the importance of wellbeing and resilience to daily life both at home and at work. CEO of the Australian Council for Educational Leaders, Aasha Murthy, encourages us as teachers and leaders to “Focus on the root cause of success rather than on failure.” The real source of power for all of us is confidence which is all about belief.
Both students and teachers need to connect with others in a meaningful way that allows skill development and is facilitated by a growth mindset. If we are able to learn and apply new skills, we build our self-efficacy which reinforces self-confidence. The implication here is that we have spent the bulk of our time on buoying the spirits of our students but with a tweak in how we approach our teachers, we could magnify the success and wellbeing of everyone on the learning journey.
Of greatest importance is that students need to feel confident about their teachers. At the ACEL Wellbeing conference this year, feedback from students on their teachers was illuminating. One Year 6 student said “Teachers need to be consistent and confident in their skills and they need to care about us.” A Year 7 student explained that as far as he saw it, “Confidence is all about belief. Self-belief means that you can rely on yourself because you are being supported by your family, school and friends.”
When the students were asked if they could give us a ‘recipe for good teaching’, their responses were insightful, provocative and affirming in that we are all in pursuit of the same end: an increased sense of self-belief and successful endeavour.
Here’s what the students told us:
- Provide positive reinforcement – to improve our self-esteem
- Set achievable goals – give us things we can do
- Stop using labels – avoid using them about us
- Believe in us and we’ll believe in ourselves
When asked what qualities are important in a school leader, the students responded with:
- A leader who cares about us and who knows us
- One who does everything with us and wants to get to know us
- A kind-hearted person who looks on the positive side
- It’s important to have a good connection with students
- One who is interested in the student voice. Ask us what we want
- Open opportunities for all students at school – help students love to learn
I’ve attended numerous conferences on how to develop teacher capacity and quality and how to improve assessment and results for students but this honest and unique forum of students has resonated with me. I am investigating how best to enhance teacher quality through our appraisal for development program as well as examining approaches to teacher professional learning. With these student observations as a starting point, I find that they have indeed ‘flipped’ the learning process for me. After all, the better we understand each other’s needs, the better our schools will be for everyone in them.
Head of Teacher Excellence
BA Dip. Ed. M Ed. Leadership MACE MACEL