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Tuesday, February 11, 2014
If you have ever attended one of my SEL trainings for teachers, you have undoubtedly heard me talk about the importance of "teaching presence." Teaching presence is bringing all of the wonderful experiences, characteristics, and qualities that make you a successful teacher directly into your learning community. It is making special and unique connections to your students and helping them to connect learning in the classroom to the larger society. Teaching presence is transforming your classroom into a welcoming and inclusive community for learning. As the late Rachael Kessler professed, "Who we are and the environment we create in class are at least as important as the teaching skills we possess" (p. 1). Or as Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, "What you are speaks so loudly that I can't hear what you say you are" (Kessler, p. 1)–that is teaching presence.
When I think about excellent teaching presence in practice, my 11th and 12th grades English teacher, Ms. Jo Ann Holmes, immediately comes to mind. Her ability to transition us in-and-out of the everyday happenings of our teenaged lives and into the world of primary epic literature and prose writing, with ease, fascinates me to this day. Her faith in our abilities to be academically competitive despite how financially challenged our school district was, motivated me to work extremely hard. She established a system of trust among her student learners and we were able to experience academic growth without inhibitions and restrictions. The special one-on-one relationship she developed with me added an additional layer of guidance and mentorship that allowed me to build confidence in my academic abilities and the strengths that I bring to any learning community.
Requirements for excellent teaching presence include:
- Each class session must have a beginning–it cannot simply start. There must be a gathering of the minds, energies, and temperaments at the beginning.
- Teachers must make eye contact with each student to draw him/her into the learning and engagement process.
- Teachers must be non-robotic and non-mechanical. Teach from the heart with kindness.
- Remove any obstacles to caring for each student individually.
- Lesson plans cannot be more important than being present in teaching.
- Teachers must develop their own social and emotional intelligence.
- Create safe spaces with students. In this way, students feel comfortable expressing academic and social concerns in their learning community.
- Do not shy away from humanizing yourself to your students. Students love to hear stories about when their teacher(s) were in elementary, middle, and high school.
Source: Kessler, R. (2000). The teaching presence. Retrieved from http://passageworks.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Teaching-Presence-Virginia-Journal-of-Ed-2.pdf