Teacher’s Toolkit

Monifa Tannis, Harford County 2nd Grade teacher

Monifa Tannis is a vibrant 2nd grade teacher at Church Creek Elementary in Harford County. She signs off every email with a quote from the legendary educator Rita Pierson: “Teaching and learning should bring joy!” Click here to watch Pierson’s famous TED Talk, “Every Kid Needs a Champion.”

FIND THE JOY IN THE JOURNEY Teaching is like a roller coaster ride—there are many steep inclines and unexpected drops, sharp curves, and sudden changes of speed and direction as we journey. Like a roller coaster ride, it’s a choice we made and the path we decid­ed to take, so we could either scream the entire ride in protest or embrace the journey as we celebrate the highs and learn from the lows. There is always something to bring joy on this teaching roller coaster.

OUR ATTITUDE DETERMINES OUR DIRECTION This is true in terms of approaching our students, their families, and even our administrators. If we perceive students as problematic or negative, and have a negative attitude towards them, those students will meet or exceed those expectations. The same applies to working with families and administrators. A good attitude can bring restoration and strengthen our relationships within our teaching career.

CIRCLE UP Restorative commu­nity circles have also helped me to build my classroom culture. Circles help to create a safe space for learning and build a rich sense of support and community in the classroom. Each child has the opportuni­ty to express their thoughts, questions, and concerns and is celebrated and embraced by the class community. Circles build relationships; foster crit­ical thinking, self-control, and conflict resolution; and build self-confidence and awareness of the community and the impact of our actions. When students feel safe and supported, they are more able to take intellectual risks with our content.

CONNECT BEFORE CHALLENGING Children don’t care what we are teaching them until they have connected with us and believe we have their best interests at heart. I find that it’s easier to challenge and “push” students after we make that connection. Once they know that you ac­knowledge them as an indi­vidual, that you believe they are capable, and that you will support them in accomplishing their goal, they are more open to the challenge.

MISTAKES ARE PROOF THAT YOU ARE TRYING Own your mistakes and learn from them. We are human and are not perfect. There is always going to be more to do and an area in which we can improve ourselves and our practice.

MY HAPPY PLACE As teachers we give, and give, and give, and on days when feel we can’t give anymore…we give some more. I have found that it is important to find what refuels me and add it into my schedule. Whether it’s a night out with a friend, going dancing, a quiet getaway or a vacation, plan on it, pay for it, and then you will have to go! We need to add ourselves to our busy schedules and spend time refueling to get ready for the next ride.

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