As a child, school came easy for me. My school work was never too hard, and I prided myself in being a good student. I really enjoyed school, but it wasn’t until 8th grade that I felt inspired to be more. My 8th grade teacher believed in me, but he also had very high expectations. He wasn’t impressed with grades. Rather, he was impressed with us going the extra mile. Which meant, for me, it was the realization that getting an “A” didn’t necessarily mean that I had given my best. I had always identified myself as a good student, but now realized that I had actually often taken the easy way, and yet saw myself as superior to others because I could could get good grades. Even though my peers were working harder and therefore honestly had more reason to feel pride. This teacher pushed me to self reflect and dig deeper into who I really was. What kind of person was I? What did my choices say about my character? Did I go the extra mile? Was I driven to be my best?
This is one of the reasons I later decided to become a teacher myself. I have often been told that I have very high expectations of my students, yet they consistently reach those expectations. I believe the key here is that you have to not only have high expectations, but must also have the relationship with your students to inspire them to want to reach for it. I’ve seen so many bosses and teachers try to force their employees/students to reach their expectations through force or fear, but it doesn’t work. It only leads to frustration and resentment. This philosophy bleeds into everything I do as a teacher, and I feel so passionately about it that I could honestly write a book on classroom community, but for today I am going to focus on one little detail: The Above & Beyond Board.
This bulletin board is inside of my classroom and not out in the hallway for a reason. I want it to be front and center for my students and myself daily. I rotate student work through this board weekly. I pick work that I know the student went the extra mile on. It is not based on grades. A student could get 100% on an assignment and it could still not be “above and beyond quality”. I know my students, and I know when they are truly giving their everything and being the best they can be. This is when they are nominated for the board. It could be a student that usually rushes through their writing, but this time he takes his time to write a quality piece in which he even checks and rechecks for spelling and grammar errors. Or a student that took the math lesson and instead of only doing the assigned math problems, she did the whole page for extra practice.
Once I have picked a sample for the Above & Beyond Board, I announce in front of the whole class why I am picking that particular student’s work. Then the class cheers for that student, and the student gets his/her work put up with his/her name on the mini chalkboard clip, and a note on it explaining why it was chosen. The students really take pride in their work being presented, and it has inspired all my students to give their best, even in subjects that may have been difficult for them in the past.
I feel so blessed to get the opportunity to play a part in these children’s lives as they mature into young adults, and are building their identities. Being a teacher is such an honor, and we are truly making a difference.