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Virginia Journal of Education

 Your Classroom

The Heart of Teaching

By Rusul Alrubail

What does it mean to be a great teacher? Of course credentials, knowledge, critical thinking and all other faculties of intelligence are important. However, a great teacher should be much more than credentials, experience and intelligence.

What lies in the heart of a great teacher?

You are kind: a great teacher shows kindness to students, colleagues, parents and those around her or him. My favorite saying is, “Kindness makes the world go around.” It truly changes the environment in the classroom and school. Being a kind teacher helps students feel welcomed, cared for and loved.

You are compassionate: Teaching is a very humanistic profession, and compassion is the utmost feeling of understanding, showing others you are concerned about them. A compassionate teacher models that characteristic to students with his or her actions, and as a result students will be more open to understanding the world around them.

You are empathetic: Empathy is such an important trait to have and to try to develop in ourselves and our students. Being able to put yourself in someone’s shoes and see things from their perspective can have such a powerful impact on our decisions and actions.

You are positive: Being a positive person is not an easy task. Being a positive teacher is even harder when we’re always met with problems with very limited solutions. However, staying positive when it’s tough can have such a tremendous positive impact on students and everyone else around us. Looking on the bright side always seems to help make things better.

You are a builder: A great teacher bridges gaps and builds relationships, friendships and a community. Teachers always look to make things better and improve things, inside and outside of the classroom. Building a community is something a great teacher seeks to do in the classroom and extends that to the entire school and its community.
You inspire: Everyone looks at a great teacher and wants to be a better teacher, a better student and, even better, a better person. A great teacher uncovers hidden treasures, possibilities and magic right before everyone’s eyes.

Alrubail is an educator-in-residenc¬e at Design Cofounders, a teacherpreneur at The Writing Project and also teaches English composition, literature and English Language Learners. Visit her website at This item originally appeared on January 14, 2015 at; the George Lucas Educational Foundation.


The Big Three

 • A commitment to staff and student learning.

• A shared vision of what the school should be.

• A principal who nurtures teachers as leaders.

Those were the top three responses in a recent poll conducted by ASCD that asked educators, “What do you think most contributes to creating a positive school culture?”


Group Organizes Learning Trips for Teachers

Global Exploration for Educators Organization (GEEO) is a nonprofit organization that runs professional development travel programs designed for teachers. This year, GEEO is offering trips to India/Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bali/Lombok, Italy, Eastern Europe, Portugal/Spain, Greece, Uzbekistan, Vietnam/Cambodia, Thailand/Laos, Belize/Guatemala, Morocco, The Baltics, China, Eastern Turkey, Western Turkey, Zambia/Botswana/Namibia/South Africa, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Peruvian Andes, Peruvian Amazon and the Galapagos Islands.

Educators have the option to earn graduate school and professional development credit for the trips, which are from 8 to 21 days in length and designed and priced for teachers.

Itineraries, costs, travel dates, and more can be found at for each trip at The registration deadline is June 1.


Call Me MISTER Program Boosts Minorities in Teaching

The racial and ethnic makeup of America’s teaching corps has not kept pace with the rapidly-expanding diversity of our nation’s public school student population, leaving some educators concerned about a lack of role models for minority youth. Call Me MISTER, a national program currently in place at Longwood University, is hoping to make a dent in that issue.

Call Me MISTER (Men Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models) is an initiative designed to increase the number of minority teaching candidates, especially black males, available to our students, with an emphasis on lower-performing elementary schools.

Participating students earn financial support and are then expected, upon completion of the MISTER program, to teach one year for each year they received aid.

To learn more about the program, visit


Association to Offer Training on Evaluation, Students with Autism

In response to feedback from members, VEA’s Office of Teaching and Learning is planning to unveil two new instructional workshops for educators this summer, both developed by Association members and staff. Here’s a quick rundown: 

• Teacher evaluation. In a series of sessions, this will focus on navigating newly-designed teacher evaluation systems, covering everything from creating appropriate, well-written goals to how best to demonstrate you’ve effectively met those goals. Designed to provide an understanding of the entire system, sessions will spend time on each of the seven standards that make up that system. The whole series will be featured this summer at both the Reggie Smith Organizing School and the Southwest Organizing Institute, and will then become available by request, either as an entire series or in individual segments.

• The autism spectrum. In “Autism Spectrum Disorder:  Putting the Pieces Together,” classroom teachers, special education teachers, education support professionals and administrators will gain insight into the challenging task of effectively addressing the needs of students with autism. The workshop offers an overview of autism, how it may affect the learning environment, and techniques and strategies for use in the classroom. Debuting at the Reggie Smith Organizing School in July, this workshop and will be available by request afterwards.


Play On!

“Giving students occasions to learn through play not only fosters creative thinking, problem-solving, independence and perseverance, but also addresses teenagers’ developmental needs for greater independence and ownership in their learning, physical activity, creative expression, and the ability to demonstrate competence.”

Hilary G. Conklin, associate professor, College of Education at DePaul University in Chicago



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