With the end of the school year knocking on our door, as teachers we are assessing that work we have accomplished with our classes. While mastering ELA skills and growing mathematical literacy may be foremost on the academic goals list, for many teachers, there are equally important goals beyond the curriculum.
ThinkFives and ESGI polled hundreds of teachers to find out what are the Top 5 lessons they have hoped to instill in their students this year. We will have accomplished a lot if our children leave with just a few of these lessons.
Enjoy Curiosity and Imagination
Carl Sagan may have said it best, “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it, we go nowhere.” Sitting at #5 on the list of the Top 5 lessons teachers would like to instill in students are curiosity and imagination.
One might question, however, whether this needs to be instilled or simply not thwarted. Our youngest students come to us filled with curiosity and Imagination. Skies can be purple, grass can be pink, and stuffed bears can come to life. So why do we force them to color the sky blue and grass green and make a teddy bear inert?
Great teachers create an environment where students can explore and be curious. Do you?
Embrace Failure and Learn from It
This is one of the more difficult lessons for students to learn. It might be because our entire educational system teaches them otherwise. F is for failure. A zero kills your entire class grade average.
How do we reconcile this with examples we are well aware of in our adult culture? J. K. Rowling was jobless, a lone parent, and without money before writing Harry Potter. Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard and co-founded a startup that went out of business. Walt Disney was fired from his first newspaper job because he “lacked creativity.”
How can we as teachers encourage our students to take risks, consider alternative paths, and learn when it doesn’t work? We will all fail at some things. Teaching students at an early age that failure is just a step in the learning process is a crucial lesson.
Develop Your Foundational Reading Abilities
The one academic lesson on our Top 5 list will not surprise you. Teachers, particularly elementary school teachers, know that reading is the foundation for all future learning.
Students who do not learn to read proficiently by third-grade struggle to “read to learn” thereafter and are four times less likely to graduate high school.
Think about that. No matter what we do in other subject areas or with arts and music, the one key predictor of future success is the ability to read.
If there is any gift we can give our students it’s the gift of reading.
Be Kind to Others and Yourself
Acts of kindness have the potential to make the world a happier place. An act of kindness goes so much further than the actual act itself. It can boost feelings of confidence, happiness, and optimism in you and in others.
Acts of kindness lead to other acts of kindness. Kindness connects us to other people. As the receiver, it makes us feel significant and supported. As the giver, it focuses us on activities outside of ourselves that can return joy.
And if the apparent reasoning for kindness is not enough, how about these positive benefits, as researched by the Mayo Clinic. “Kindness can decrease blood pressure and cortisol, a stress hormone, which directly impacts stress levels. People who give of themselves in a balanced way also tend to be healthier and live longer.”
Always Do Your Best
Topping our list of lessons that teachers would like their students to learn this year is always do your best. There’ll be many things in life that we can’t control, but one thing we can, is our own effort.
Being your best self is entirely in our control. It may not lead to wild successes or riches, but it will lead to contentment. In reality, we can’t give it 110%; we can only give it our best. But we must also be careful not to define this as pressure to succeed. We must do our best in school but also in relationships, kindness and self-help.
Do the best you can. If it still doesn’t work out, at least you will have peace of mind knowing you tried.