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The Teacher Is the Message

By Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller

Bulletin boards are up, the welcome sign hangs on the door, and inspirational quotes occupy important places on the wall. Your desk is neat and organized. You have goals and objectives set for the semester. New technology and learning materials have been purchased and reviewed. You are pumped up and ready to go. You can hardly wait to help students immerse themselves in the designed curriculum using the new resources now available to you and to them.

You might have a new literature textbook to use this year. Or perhaps you have laptops for every student. If you are like a lot of professional educators, you spent some of your own money this summer scrounging art supplies from garage sales or boxes full of supplemental reading materials for your first-graders. You can't wait to have them experience the new supplies and resources you now have at your disposal.
But hold on. Are you forgetting something?

The students you have this year are not taking a year of fifth grade from you. They are taking a year of YOU for fifth grade. Likewise, they are not taking algebra from you this semester. They are taking a semester of YOU for algebra.

Think about it. Your classroom is you. Your Teacher Talk language is you. The materials you select to use with your students are you. Everything that goes on in that classroom is flavored with a huge dose of you. Your students will not be taking a year of physical education from you. They will be taking a year of YOU for physical education.

You, the teacher, and you, the human being, have an enormous impact on the students you teach. Are you conscious of the silent messages your behavior sends to students? Are you aware of what you model? Do you choose your modeling with intentionality? Is that important to you?

Are you aware of the degree to which you share your humanness with students? Do you do it on purpose? Have you developed ways to be real with students and help them connect to your humanness? Do you drop the façade of professional educator and allow students to see pieces of you, the human being? Do you want to?

Keep in mind, you the teacher are your own best resource. True, it is primarily the board of education that approves the curriculum, spending, and hiring proposals. The principal generally decides class lists, assigns rooms, and sets procedures. Committees often make textbook recommendations, decide report card formats, and create curriculum guides for each grade level. Yet it is you alone who closes that door behind you and faces a classroom full of students.

You share a full year of important experiences with your students.

You offer students textbooks, manipulatives, interactive materials, and learning tasks of every size, shape, and content. You offer them choices, exercises in thinking, and opportunities to solve problems. You offer them consequences, chances to accept responsibility, and opportunities to have input. Yet the most important thing you have to offer your students is your own humanity. When you give of yourself, you give something that is real, something no one else can offer. You offer YOU.

No printed word, not spoken plea,
Can teach young minds what they can be.
Nor all the books on all the shelves.
But what the teachers are themselves.
Create a great year and give them a lot of YOU.

Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the coauthors of The Teacher Talk Advantage: Five Voices of Effective Teaching. They are two of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free monthly e-zine for educators and another for parents. To sign up for the newsletters or learn more about the seminars they offer teachers and parents, visit their websites today: www.chickmoorman.com and www.thomashaller.com

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