“Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see the greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself.”
My colleagues are standing at the top of the Spanish Steps awash in the late afternoon sunlight of Rome. They have joined me to help chaperone our annual spring break trip to Europe for my AP European History students. This trip is our attempt to bring students closer to the art, history, and culture which helped shape western civilization. Needless to say, I never run short of volunteers to chaperone this adventure.
I started this year by looking back at 2013, and selecting ‘Scenes from My Classroom,’ in an effort to reflect on significant images which helped me grow as a teacher and professional. This scene is a reminder to me of the significant lessons I learn from my teaching colleagues.
It’s from my colleagues that I see the characteristics of exceptional teachers; characteristics which I try to emulate. My teaching colleagues are patient with students, reminding me that young people wrestle with lessons at varying paces and that some students like to approach learning from different angles.
They are creative and thoughtful and their classrooms reflect these characteristics in ways that make me step back and reflect on my approaches to the interplay of curriculum and instruction.
My teaching colleagues are demanding of students. They expect students to give their best effort in the classroom, the hallway, the cafeteria, on the stage and on the field. They expect and demand that students learn how to become thoughtful and engaged contributors to their community. My colleagues hold students to a level of excellence that students may not think they’re capable of, and these students are often surprised and grateful for their teachers being so demanding of them.
My colleagues are great listeners, not only with their ears but also their eyes. They hear the spoken language of our students and diagnose the tone associated with the message. With their eyes, my colleagues perceive the body language of students and use that information to encourage, or if needed, to discourage a message or behavior.
The teachers I try to surround myself with are incredibly hard workers. They labor at their practice and continually reflect on how to improve. They possess what Carol Dweck calls a “growth mindset.” They see young people as works in progress and they see their teaching practice in the same light. As such, they work incredibly hard to improve themselves and their teaching.
My colleagues are inquisitive. I really appreciate how curious they are about everything. They want to learn more about their students and their interests. They want to learn more about their content areas and are always reading and interrogating books and articles in an effort to expand their knowledge.
Finally, my teaching colleagues are passionate and caring. They love their work and they care deeply about our school and community. They demonstrate these characteristics each day through their engagement with students, parents, and our staff. They have invested their very best in our school and community and it shows in all they do.
The teachers in the first photograph represent a few of the many exceptional teachers I’ve had the opportunity to learn from and so as I begin 2014, I never want to lose sight of the lessons I’ve learned from them. Indeed it’s a lesson for us all to “Surround [ourselves] with the dreamers….”
 Dweck, Carol S., Mindset. The New Psychology of Success; How We Can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential. Ballantine (2006).