Being a stagnant teacher is a bad situation for everyone involved. For the poor students stuck with a stone age educator, they may actually learn nothing. For the teacher who is stuck in her old ways, going to work will prove to be an exercise in frustration as she loses the focus of her students every day and deals with the inappropriate behavior that results.
Teachers stuck in old ways are not always old teachers. Some of the best, most flexible educators have been in the profession a long time. Why? Because they haven't burned out yet. They are good at what they do and what they do is change and adapt for the students that they have. Sometimes even young teachers can fall into the traps of lecturing and other outdated, ineffective teaching techniques. These teacher centered practices only work with one type of student: the motivated student. A student who is truly motivated and wants to succeed will do so no matter who is teaching her. She'll go out of her way to find the information that the teacher fails to teach her in order to pass the assessments that same teacher will deliver.
Not all students are motivated. Not all students understand what success really is. In these cases, the teacher has to be student-centered and adapt with every new group of children; every class, every day.
I try to be the very best teacher I can be. I've grown a lot since my first year. A few things have obviously improved, such as my classroom management and ability to make a lesson on the fly. However, I'm working harder to be a more student-centered educator. It's difficult, but necessary. I'm still working on trusting myself, and my students, to give them more free rein and not worry about some classes being at a different stopping point than others. Creating multiple lesson plans for a single day is a difficult process. However, simply having all Freshman English classes does not mean that I couldn't or shouldn't have different lessons for different periods. As long as the classes all end up at the same stopping point in a unit, it's still fair.
I've struggled with this idea since I first began teaching. After all, creating separate lessons for separate classes is extra work. But educating kids to the best of my abilities is the reason I got into teaching. I need to be flexible. I need to adapt lessons to individual classes and not entire years. It's easier to individualize such a response-driven lesson to individual students instead of a cookie cutter lesson for the entire day. One of the worst things a teacher can do is get through first period, realize that lesson didn't go so well, and then proceed to do that exact lesson over again several more times just so students all stay on the same page.
This is what I'm working on to become a better teacher. I'm working on my flexibility and letting my students lead their own education. I don't know if I'm a best teacher or someone's favorite teacher. I certainly hope I'm someone's favorite teacher, but the "best" part may have to wait a few years. I'll do the best that I can and know that I'll continue to improve until I'm one of the very best there is.
Don't forget that your posts about your favorite teacher are due today on the blogshare post! I'll post everyone's stories tomorrow.