Relationships - Instruction - Reflection
by: Craig Shapiro
Author of Dream Big: Stories and Strategies for a Successful Classroom
As an exercise lover, more specifically strength training, RIR, as the title is called, is referred to as Reps in Reserve. It's a term that is necessary and straightforward to remember when it comes to getting stronger. But the letters align closely with my book, Dream Big: Stories and Strategies for a Successful Classroom. Throughout the book, I use acronyms for chapter highlights to connect the material to the reader. In the case of RIR, the acronym sums up nicely what my book is focused on. It is also how I view teaching in a nutshell.
RIR means - relationships, instruction, and reflection. I've significantly focused on these words in each section of the book. They form the backbone of any practical approach to teaching and learning. In many classrooms I've observed or taught, each word plays a crucial role in how students feel about class, their ability to learn information, and how the teacher and student will review their growth and progress. Some who read this blog and my book might argue that one is more important than the other, usually the instructional piece. While instruction is how we typically think about a teacher's role, it will only be improved with solid, meaningful, and shared relationships. Along those same lines, reflection should always drive our instruction. We teach students of all different abilities, backgrounds, likes, and motivations. We must reflect on our practice for growth to occur. Students will suffer when we do the same lessons the same way, at the same pace, hoping for different results.
We've just begun the 2023 school year. In the last two days, I've met my classes, and I'm grateful that Mission Impossible (the first section of my book) has rung true. Students thrive on those solid connections and the teacher's ability to see each child as unique and valued. Even in such a short period, I'm reminded of how authentic relationships are integral for staff and students. I'd even go so far as to say, "The bonds that you build now. Will influence the learning, growth, and attitudes that follow during the year." For those who've just started or are about to begin, please consider the power of smiling, sharing stories, valuing students' voices, and being honest. All of these seem simple, and they are, but many schools and classrooms need such qualities. I encourage each of you to give yourself grace as you build your repertoire of skills. Embrace your talents, and don't harp on your struggles. Improve on them!
Instruction is our job! I could sum it up that easily. The word "teacher" embodies the importance of how we can best deliver material to students. Sure, students have hundreds of resources at their fingertips. I've read and heard many people dismiss teacher instructional importance since students can look up information on "Google." Such thinking needs to be revised, and it grossly underestimates the importance of the teacher. In the 2nd part of the book, "When the Rubber Meets the Road," I cover various essential areas. This blog can't highlight all of them. Just keep in mind that every student is different. Our approach to assessing, giving feedback, and designing lessons must consider the complexity of the material, student background knowledge, language barriers, and many other essential factors. Please be willing to adjust your toolbox of ideas when necessary. It will show students your willingness to be flexible and patient and how you prioritize their learning.
When my book was completed, I read and re-read it frequently. What gave me the most joy was thinking about how my teaching changed over 35 years. I won't say I wasn't an effective teacher when I started. I cared about students and had a passion for teaching. Even with that, there were things that I couldn't have known at 25 simply because experience hadn't taught me them yet. Our ability to reflect on our practice keeps us always wanting more. It shines a bright light on our willingness to step back and see a constantly changing picture.
Most importantly, it models students that they should not just accept or be satisfied with their work. We want children and teens to always accept that better is possible. Of all the sections, I believe "Mirror/Mirror" is the most challenging. In our field, the easiest thing is to stand still. Please don't do that. Allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them. Embrace learning and take risks. Yes, some won't work! That's okay, many will. Both of these results will make you a more effective educator. Finally, our ability to Dream Big for students and their families contributes to a society that always values growth, acceptance, and the actual importance of teachers in the classroom. I welcome your comments and suggestions as you move throughout the school year. If you read Dream Big: Stories and Strategies for a Successful Classroom, please try something from each section. Reach out to colleagues who may be struggling. If you need help, please reach out to me! It would be an honor to help you!
Best wishes for a fantastic year!
About the Author
Craig Shapiro on Facebook and Instagram
TikTok: Chatting with Shap
I’ve been a Health and Physical Education Teacher/Coach/Trainer for 30+ years. I enjoy all types of fitness, writing, speaking, and spending time with my family! Stay positive, stay happy, stay well!