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September 1, 2019
Vol. 77
No. 1

Show & Tell: A Video Column / Do You Remember Me?

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School Culture
At some point in your career, a student will return and ask you the question every teacher has been asked since time immemorial: Do you remember me? When that happens, you'll remember the rows upon rows of students you've taught and how this one student impacted your life.
Just as teachers remember students, students remember their teachers—especially those who exhibited care, compassion, high expectations, and support. In the video accompanying this column, four students perform a four-voice poem they wrote describing what they recall about past teachers. As you listen to Jarrod, Sebastian, Abdulrahim, and Luis share their poem, consider the teacher you want to be and what you want students to remember about you years from now.
What stood out for us from this poem is that great teachers:
  • Use texts that allow students to see themselves—and texts that give them glimpses into other cultures.
  • Allow students to select things they want to read.
  • Read aloud to students.
  • Talk with parents about the good things that happen in school.
  • Make sure students feel safe and aren't being bullied.
  • Develop growth-producing relationships with students.

Are You Invitational?

These students' words remind us of a concept introduced by William Purkey in 1978: invitational education. Inviting students into learning is a powerful engagement strategy. "Invitational" educators demonstrate five values: care, trust, respect, optimism, and intentionality. As you start the school year, ask yourself these questions related to these values:
  • Do students know that I care? How do I show them? Do I hold all my students in positive regard? Do I display warmth to them?
  • Do my interactions with students convey trust? Do I allow students to make meaningful, age-appropriate choices and contribute to the class? Can students count on me to follow through as promised?
  • Do I demonstrate respect for all students, irrespective of their life circumstances, behavior, or beliefs? Have I created an environment that conveys the value of respect between adults and students and between students and peers?
  • Am I optimistic about my students? Do I believe that they can learn and that I have the power to teach them? Do they know I believe in them and have high hopes for their future?
  • Am I intentional in my interactions with students and my instruction? Do I plan meaningful learning experiences that give students opportunities to grow? Am I clear in communicating learning expectations?
Purkey posited four levels of how invitational an educator is, based on how much they demonstrate these qualities. As you review these levels, consider whether your teaching shows any of these characteristics and what it would take for you to become more invitational.

Level 1: Intentionally Uninviting

This is the most toxic level of teaching. Intentionally uninviting teachers demean and discourage students. They destroy students' sense of self, including their agency and identity. Such teachers are judgmental and belittling, display little care or regard, aren't interested in students' lives and feelings, seek power over students, and usually isolate themselves from school life.
Over time, students in intentionally uninviting classrooms come to believe that nothing they do will make a difference. They become immobilized or lash out at others. We've all witnessed this type of classroom, so we won't focus on it here. Suffice it to say that you don't want to be this type of teacher.

Level 2: Unintentionally Uninviting

While less directly hostile, these teachers are seen as uncaring, condescending, or thoughtless. Sometimes they are racist or sexist. Unintentionally uninviting educators distance themselves from students and have low expectations. They don't feel effective—and blame students for that ineffectiveness. They fail to notice either students' learning or students' struggles and offer little feedback to learners.
Typically, these teachers don't mean to be hurtful, but the damage is done nonetheless. What they lack is the ability to be reflective about their teaching and their contribution to a negative learning environment. Instead, they externalize, blaming students for their circumstances and problems learning. They tend to dismiss efforts to improve teaching and learning, saying things like "But the kids in my class …" followed by some negative comment.

Level 3: Unintentionally Inviting

Teachers at this level have typically stumbled into interaction patterns with students that are more inviting than teachers at previous levels—but they aren't sure why these patterns work and are thus susceptible to peer pressure to change. Such teachers are eager but unreflective about their practice; they are energetic but rigid when facing problems. Like the unintentionally uninviting teacher, they lack self-awareness.
Students generally like these teachers, but their classrooms can seem permissive and laissez-faire. These teachers have fewer means for responding when student learning is resistant to their usual methods, and they can become very frustrated.

Level 4: Intentionally Inviting

Intentionally inviting teachers are consistent and reliable. They know why they are doing what they are doing. They are firm yet warm in their interactions and expectations. Such teachers demonstrate the five values—care, trust, respect, optimism, and intentionality—at high levels. They notice students' learning and students' struggles and respond regularly with feedback, and they seek to build, maintain, and repair relationships with learners.
Intentionally inviting teachers are "kid magnets" because young people feel valued when they interact with this type of teacher. They are kind, but they also engage students in meaningful learning and support them to achieve things that the students themselves didn't believe they could. They are committed to student growth and understand that their actions play a profound role in student learning. Most of all, they continuously reflect on their practice, adjust to meet learners' needs, and know their impact.

Where You Want to Be Every Day

Students who come back to ask if you remember them likely perceived you as intentionally inviting (they may have had less invitational teachers in their schooling, but they aren't visiting those teachers). Honestly, you want to be at this level every day, with every interaction with students. This is what students need—and it will keep you from burning out. Choose to be inviting with your students. It will make a difference for everyone.
Instructional Strategies

Show & Tell September 2019

3 years ago
End Notes

1 Purkey, W. W. (1978). Inviting school success: A self-concept approach to teaching and learning. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing.

2 Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers. New York: Routledge.

Doug Fisher is a professor of educational leadership at San Diego State University, where he focuses on policies and practices in literacy and school leadership. Additionally, he is a teacher leader at Health Sciences High & Middle College, an award-winning, open-enrollment public school in the City Heights neighborhood of San Diego that he cofounded in 2007. His areas of interest include instructional design, curriculum development, and professional learning. A passionate educator, Fisher's work is dedicated to impacting professional learning communities and nurturing the knowledge and skills of caring teachers and school leaders so they may help students improve their learning and attain their goals and aspirations.

Fisher is a member of the California Reading Hall of Fame as well as the recipient of an International Reading Association William S. Grey citation of merit and Exemplary Leader award from the Conference on English Leadership of NCTE. Previously, he was an early intervention teacher and elementary school educator. He has published numerous articles and books on literacy and leadership, teaching and learning, and improving student achievement.

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