How to Be a Legendary Teacher

Video legendary life of a teacher


T he idea for the title of this book came from a list that was placed into my hands back in my very first year of teaching, One Hundred Ways to Compliment a Child, and a buzzword that appeared at around the same time: legend . According to the dictionary, the literal meaning of legend is an old folk tale or story. But as words get changed and re-engineered over time, legend came to describe a person’s character or feats of greatness—someone might be a legend on the sporting field or a legend in the kitchen.

The word evolved from there into describing one’s exploits within these contexts. For example, his exploits in the company became legendary or her exploits in her field of expertise became legendary. So when I came across this page with One Hundred Ways to Compliment a Child, ranging from That’s great to Wonderful effort, the phrase that stood out to me the most was the one that said, You’re a legend. For some reason, this resonated with me to the point that I used it in almost every teaching situation.

I even gave the title of legendary teacher to my head teacher aide, Grace. I can still recall the beaming smile that came across her face every time I (or one of the preschoolers) said it to her. She wore it like a badge of honour, and it spread like wildfire through the child care centre that we worked in.

This leads me back to memories of my own childhood and how my mother would insist on us saying how wonderful she was before asking her for something. We learnt very quickly that the bigger the request, the more lavish the compliment had to be. I can recall to this day the one that could get you almost anything. It went something like this: Please Mummy darling, my best friend, lovely lady, star of the mountains and of the sea. It had to be accompanied by a big hug or some flowers or whatever. This became increasingly difficult in my teenage years, when the thought of hugging my parents was definitely not cool. But as I grew into a mature adult and obtained my early childhood teaching degree, I began to appreciate this method of positive reinforcement that I had been lucky enough to be exposed to.

In my first year of teaching, I asked my mother why she made us say all these things, and she said it gave her an obvious sense of appreciation—but also, it made us more appreciative of her and her role as our parent. I went back to the day care centre armed with this new vision of how the preschoolers could be encouraged (or coerced) into stating how much of a legend I was or at least would become. As teaching manners to my students has always been a huge part of my professional ethos, I began to insist that these preschoolers address me as Adam the legend. The catchphrase of Thank you, Adam, you’re a legend began to ring throughout the child care centre, to the point where Adam the Legend actually became a proper noun, with a capital L for Legend.

The best part was that these preschoolers began to address each other (and pretty much anyone they encountered) in the same way. At first, this was met with some very strange looks, but with time, it created a legendary learning culture. We all talked the talk, and to our surprise, we began to walk the walk also. This was to become my very first conscious step into the world of the power of affirmations and how they could have a fantastic impact on not only my students but my whole teaching approach.

Please remember that this book is based on my own ideas and approach. You may agree with it or you may not, and either one is fine. The aim of this book is to challenge you and lead you to develop better theories about yourself and your teaching. The issues outlined here may not work for everyone, but they’re intended to give you a better sense of yourself as a teacher or educator and where you want to go with your own teaching and especially your own learning. Some aspects of this book may tend to contradict each other, just as many aspects of our modern teaching lives are contradictory. And at times throughout this book I feel that I do tend to make some points more than once and repeat some themes several times. This being that many subjects within teaching and learning do blend into one another and therefore can serve in a variety of ways. Try to see past this if you will, and as the old saying goes, Chew on the meat and spit out the bones.

Chapter 1


E nergy is one element you will need plenty of to become a legendary teacher. You will need to use it, love it, conserve it, appreciate it, and above all, understand it. In his book The Dancing Wu Li Masters, Gary Zukav describes energy as something organic. He describes the organic part as alive and growing. If something is alive and growing, then it is evolving and adapting to its immediate environment. This is how I choose to view the students I teach.

The students I am responsible for need me to view them as individual masses of energy entwined with a greater energy, which is a class or a group. Their energy is open to anything I care to teach them about. This can take the form of the obvious spoken or written words but also nonverbal cues, such as body language, facial gestures, and overall personal presentation. This idea of energy may seem a bit cosmic or out there, but that’s teaching for you. All the best—or at least the most memorable—teachers I have come across take this slightly offbeat approach. As we are all spiritual beings, it is only obvious that our collective energies are what go into making up our immediate reality.

As an early childhood teacher, I learned very quickly how young children respond positively to my energy and how this can dictate the course of a lesson, a small-group session, or even a teaching day. The art of good teaching is about tuning into the energy of your classroom, knowing how to manipulate that energy, and then guiding it and ultimately enhancing it.

As a teacher, your primary role is to create good energy. This can take the form of the presentation of yourself through positive body language and personal confidence. The question to ask yourself is: Am I the teacher I would love to be taught by? If the answer is a resounding yes, that’s fantastic. But if the answer is no, then some more personal investigation needs to take place. More on that later.

Zukav also describes energy as part of our physical and spiritual vibration. He outlines this beautifully in his wonderful book The Heart of the Soul, where he goes into more detail about how you can align your personality with your soul in perfect vibration. Everything in the physical world has a specific vibration. As a teacher, you can relate to your energy as your own specific vibration.

Have you ever had a situation where you just clicked with someone instantly and didn’t known why? Have you ever been in a situation that felt completely right for you? That’s when your energy and vibration are perfectly aligned with your soul or purpose. This can be a purpose just to a specific task or to an environment, a job, or a place. The best aspect of this as a teacher is that your students’ little inner radars (their vibrations) will instantly pick up on whether you are aligning yourself with that purpose.

As a teacher, I have experienced this many times. I have walked into some schools and felt completely welcome, and in others, I have felt completely distant. I have met students and had an instant rapport with them, and not so much with others. But your vibration can be altered to suit a particular situation or person if you wish.

My wonderful masseur, Helen from Cairns, told me this about six months ago. She is a former primary school teacher herself and a current yoga and meditation teacher. She told me that if I went home and found a quiet patch of grass or bare earth, I could change my vibration by jumping vigorously up and down on that spot for one minute. At first, I thought this sounded a bit out there, but I did know that Helen was a very wise woman and that she was telling me this because she cared for me enough to want me to move forward spiritually in my life. So I tried it a few times and didn’t feel much different—other than being a little shaken up (literally). Then I began to notice very subtle changes in the way I saw things.

Another great sign from the heavens came a little while later, when I read a fantastic quote from Wayne Dyer’s book Inspiration (he actually says this in several other books too): When you change the way you look at things, then the things you look at change. This was a pivotal point of my teaching life, because as all teachers know, this profession takes up a lot of your mental and physical time. I began to see life differently. I saw my students as individuals who were on their own learning journeys just like me and were seeking their own truth for their own path just like me.

I know this may sound a bit philosophical, yet I feel this has always been my soul’s calling within teaching. This is ultimately why I became a teacher in the first place. And it is the whole reason I’ve written this book: to encourage others to find their caring and compassionate purpose within the profession of teaching and education.

I have met a few individuals who were not suited to being teachers. When I asked them, for my own interest, why they became teachers, I was a little shocked by the answers. One was that their parents wanted them to go to university no matter what, and it was the only course they could get into. Another was that it seemed like a secure job.

At first, I was ready to write these people off as a negative influence on their students, because they essentially were in teaching as a way to pay the bills. But as the optimistic person I have grown to be, I was prepared to encourage them to either leave the teaching profession to those who really had a passion for it or to work their own energy to match their teaching journey. The results of this have been varied, and I need to stress that I don’t wish to sound judgemental towards these individuals. But teaching is not a profession that you can go into half-heartedly.

It’s the same when I have been working with teachers who are of mature years and ready to retire. Some of these teachers see retirement as a key to getting out of jail, and others see it as a path to a less complicated teaching journey. Sure, you will get tired of teaching at different points in your life, but the key is to know when it’s time to change your path within teaching or to find a new journey into another profession. Your students will know when you have passed your use-by date as a teacher, and this will not make your journey any easier. In fact, like anything else, the more you try to just hold out to make it over that retirement line, the longer it will drag out.

The strangest thing I have ever seen—and this is happening more and more in recent years—is teachers retiring and then getting bored and returning to teaching to keep themselves interested in life. I believe that legendary teachers never retire. They just move into something that interests them at that particular stage in their teaching life. You could reduce your teaching load and go part-time or keep your finger in the pie, so to speak, with some casual work. I have even met a few teachers who have retired from full-time teaching and volunteer in schools, teaching and assisting with reading and literacy a day or two a week.

I also recall working casually at a school where I met a fantastic retired teacher who volunteered as a school grandparent. She even had this title on her name badge. Her role was to go purely wherever she was needed with reading or maths or just to talk with the students if they needed it, and they absolutely loved her for it. The best part was she proudly stated that she would never retire, because she loved being a teacher and being around kids.

Now back to the energy of the classroom. Your classroom needs to reflect your personal energy, including what you believe in, what you’re passionate about, and of course, what interests you. It doesn’t really matter what it is, as the main aim of this is n

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