Thursday, March 24, 2016

Finding Your Teaching Superpowers

Being a teacher is challenging work. A recent blog post on TeachThought reports that on average teachers make 1500 educational decisions a day. And these decisions, when skillfully made, have the power to create amazing learning experiences for students. You are never just a teacher. This is complex work.

And it's work that matters. Teachers have great influence on their students. It is not a responsibility to be taken lightly. Your words and actions can be life changing for your students.

But how do you make the greatest impact possible? How do you find your teaching superpowers? Every teacher has a unique set of gifts to bring to their work as an educator. The qualities you have that allow you to have the greatest impact are your superpowers. Here are four ways to build on your gifts and become the very best teacher you can be.

1. Focus on your strengths. No one is great at everything. To be our best we need to focus on our strengths and compensate for our weaknesses. Too many teachers feel ineffectual or less than because they aren't like the teacher down the hall. They compare themselves to others and feel they don't measure up. They may try to be like another teacher they admire. That's not a bad thing. We definitely learn from emulating others, but we can't sacrifice our strengths to be like someone else.

2. Exercise your gifts. Find the things that really make you and your students feel energized, curious, and fully engaged. Find what you do well, and do it over and over again. That doesn't mean you shouldn't also be trying new things, but it's wise to regularly practice the things you do well. Your students will thank you. If you are a good storyteller, use stories. If you are great at asking deep questions, do more of that. If you have a great sense of humor, work that into your lessons. We all have unique gifts that can be powerful. With practice, these gifts become your teaching superpowers.

3. Have the courage to be different. Unhappiness comes when you try to be like everyone else rather than embracing the unique person that you are. Again, it's unhealthy to compare yourself to others. Instead, compete only with yourself. Set goals and compare how you perform compared to what you set out to do. Work to be better tomorrow than you are today. Bring your passions into your teaching and you will have more energy, be more effective, and have more enthusiasm than ever before.

4. Learn to cope with criticism. Have enough confidence in who you are that you can listen to others and be open to change without feeling you have to agree with their viewpoint or attain their approval. There will always be critics who try to pull you down. Learn to distinguish these from the voices of those who want to help you get better. They will offer constructive feedback that can help you grow. And always remember that even if you are striving to be your best, you will still encounter criticism. 

If you are doing these things consistently over time and still don't find the effectiveness and joy in teaching that you desire, it could be you need to make a change. Consider moving to a different position or a different grade level. Or maybe look at working in a different school. You want to feel you are making an impact and reaching your full potential as an educator. 

This great video from Daniel Pink offers two questions to consider each day to find your purpose and find your teaching superpowers.

Two questions that can change your life from Daniel Pink on Vimeo.

Question: What others ideas do you have for becoming your best? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

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