The Absolute Best Teaching Practice

With grad school beginning, the school year, and my children’s sports all beginning in August, I haven’t had any time to write about anything I’ve been reflecting on. However, those three things have given me plenty of opportunity and motivation to reflect on my practice. I’ve attended multiple professional development sessions focusing on multiple practices labeled as “best practices” in the classroom. However, I believe there is one vital practice that doesn’t happen often and in my time reflecting this semester, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is the most important practice to ensure success in the classroom.

Before I share my best practice with you, lets look at some of the others that I use in class or that we have discussed this semester. There is formative assessment, asking higher-level questions, cooperative learning, brain breaks, and pre-teaching. Ok, this isn’t everything we’ve covered, but you get the point. If you would like a list of best practices from Grant Wiggins, click here.

To clarify, I’m not saying these things are not important. I know there is no way my students could have the success they have without the feedback from formative assessment, or the energy and focus gained from brain breaks, or higher-order thinking students engage in while in cooperative learning groups. But, students would never engage in any of those activities if it weren’t for what I believe is the best educational practice.

I could become a consultant or write a book, but my best practice is so simple, the PD would take 1 minutes and the book would be one page and one sentence. I’m sure that someone, somewhere has some data on this practice and can quantify gains and tell you the effect size of my practice. However, I don’t have it, so you’ll just have to trust me.

Are you ready? You really want to know Andy Harridge’s absolute best practice to use in the classroom? The one thing that I believe is most vital to the success of students and teachers and the first and only sentence of my book would be:

Love kids.

That’s it. That’s the secret from Andy Harridge’s book The Secret to Producing Highly Successful Students. Love kids. Love them when you are tired. Love them when they annoy you. Love them when nothing else you have tried is working. Love kids because, if you don’t love kids and they know it, they will never buy into anything that you are selling ever.

In a perfect world, I would win the lottery (even though I don’t play), I would build my own school, and I would make “loving students” my number one priority. I would focus PD on loving students and it would be part of everyone’s evaluation. I would love to see the results if we focused on creating an environment of love, acceptance, confidence, excitement, and love again. Of course, we would talk about formative assessment, cooperative learning, brain breaks, etc. But, above all, students would walk out of my building with no doubt in their mind that they are loved by every single one of their teachers. Once that was realized, I can only imagine what students would be willing to do and the effect this would have on the world.

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3 thoughts on “The Absolute Best Teaching Practice

  1. The thought of “loving kids” being a vital best practice fascinates me. Not because I don’t think it’s important, but merely because I’ve never sat down to think about how essential it is to our teaching.

    In the past year, I have encountered multiple books and articles that mention a similar idea, but with a different label. I think a huge part of loving the kids is getting to know the kids. According to Sonia Nieto and Patty Bode in Affirming Diversity, it is key for teachers to understand student development and cultural backgrounds. In this way, getting to know the students will help increase student achievement of our ELL population.

    Another viewpoint comes from Dave Burgess, author of Teach Like a Pirate. He discusses total immersion in classrooms. Giving students all of our attention, at all times, has an incredible effect on the students in our classrooms. I believe this to be very similar to loving the kids and wanting them to succeed every step of the way.

    Thank your for sharing your awesome best practice!!!

    1. Thanks for commenting Amanda. I think schools are looking everywhere they possibly can in order to find strategies to decrease dropout rates, increase test scores, etc. However, I feel that schools could get more “bang for their buck” if they just focused on making students feel loved. How interesting would it be if PD for the next year at each school would be different things to try in order to make students feel loved and appreciated? How would it affect attendance and dropout rates if students felt loved all day, every day? How much more would students learn if they felt loved by every teacher they had? How would student behavior and discipline change?

      Also, I really appreciated your comment on ELL students. How much would those students feel appreciated if teachers took the time to learn something about their culture or learned how to say “Good morning!” or “Have a great day!” in their language? I would feel loved if someone did that for me.

      I believe the most important thing to think about with this topic is the fact that these things wouldn’t take much time to implement. How much time would it take to smile at kids and say “Good morning!”? How much effort would it take to write a postcard to a student telling them how much you appreciated something they did or how cool it was to read something they wrote?

      I will always remember a presentation I attended with a speaker Chick Moorman in which he discussed a funeral that he attended of a former teacher of his. There were many, many former students of the teacher that attended. While discussing their former teacher, none of them talked about the math concepts he taught them or the rules he enforced. They talked about how much he loved them and how they wanted to do their best for him because they loved him.

      1. I completely agree! This is something schools should look into. I am sure there would be such a difference in schools if all interactions between staff and students were positive interactions.

        It is interesting to see some of our ELL students outside of my classroom, because they are completely different. In my classroom they raise their hands, ask questions, and collaborate. In other classrooms they hide in the back and shy away from conversations. I am not saying all students are like this, nor am I saying I’ve got it all figured out. However, I’d like to believe that I know our ELL population really well due to our conversations and my passion for getting to know more about their culture.

        “One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” – Carl Jung

        This quote reminded me of your story about the funeral. We have so many jobs as teachers, and although it is important for us to teach the curriculum, we are there to do so much more!

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