Between the ages of seven and 11, “Children are busily learning to be competent and productive or feel inferior and unable to do anything well,” according to developmental psychologist and Harvard professor Erik Erikson. During those years, while children attend elementary school, teachers play significant roles as advocate, educator and encourager. As impressionable children watch and learn from them, educators accept the responsibility of helping raise successful adults.
Attitudes and Personality
Cyril R. Mill, former director of Psychological Services in Richmond, Virginia pointed out that, “In the impressionable years of childhood, one might say that attitudes are catching.”
Elementary students continually watch their teachers, scrutinizing their actions, reactions and responses to all kinds of situations. As these children see how adults meet both positive and negative events, they begin to understand what attitudes are common, which are acceptable and which are the most effective.
Whether directly affected or mildly influenced by the attitudes of their teachers and how they interact with others, students’ observations help them form their own attitudes and responses to circumstances. They witness how grown-ups deal with student behavior, parental concerns and administrators’ demands. How their teachers approach the challenges of life will contribute to how students approach their own challenges as they grow and mature.
In A Different Kind of Classroom, Robert J. Marzano, states, “Without positive attitudes and perceptions, students have little chance of learning proficiently, if at all.” Teachers carry a great deal of responsibility to create a positive learning climate. They must provide clear directions and purpose for classroom tasks and assignments.
Students who succeed at school are most likely the beneficiaries of a welcoming and creative learning environment. Teachers do not have to expend large sums on fancy decorations or furniture. But physical comfort can be achieved by organizing the classroom with students in mind and offering a variety of learning breaks, which give the brain time to process what has already been presented and prepare for more information.
In addition, teachers who appeal to a variety of learning styles and modalities while presenting information and making assignments allow students to demonstrate understanding and mastery of materials in a variety of ways. These accommodations demonstrate a feeling of respect for student differences and preferences.
When teachers convey an attitude of interest and excitement, students are more likely to succeed. Here are a few of the ways teachers show enthusiasm:
- Building levity into the daily routine.
- Creating a space in which students are encouraged to try, even if they make mistakes.
- Maintaining a safe place in which students will not be victimized by other students in any way without teacher intervention.
- Displaying genuine interest in the materials and concepts.
- Expecting full participation by students.
“A good teacher not only improves a child’s test scores in the classroom, but also enhances his or her chances to attend college, earn more money and avoid teen pregnancy, according to a new seminal study,” notes William J. Bennett, former Secretary of Education.
Although children come to the classroom with different levels of ability and experience, it is the responsibility of the teacher to meet each child where they are and help them reach their potential. It is critical that teachers understand the impact they have on student achievement, even if it seems that there is little hope of success.
For the sake of their students, teachers do not have the luxury of getting discouraged about test scores, student behavior or governmental mandates. According to clinical psychologist, Robert Brooks, “When people believe that what they are doing is of little consequence, their motivation and energy will be minimal, and they cannot help but convey this to others. When those others are students, what will result is a school environment devoid of excitement and learning and filled with boredom and perhaps anger.”
Experienced teachers looking for new and innovative ways to help students succeed will find a variety of resources and professional support when they earn a Master of Education in Elementary Education from Mississippi College. This program has been designed to “prepare you to effectively respond to your students’ needs.” And when you respond to the needs of your students, you will find that they flourish and succeed.
Learn more about the Mississippi College online M.Ed. in Elementary Education program.