As educators return to the classroom each school year, a wave of different thoughts and emotions tend to catch our attention and guide our approach. No matter our age or experience, we are often filled with excitement at new opportunities, anxiety over the unknown, and tension between the seemingly endless strains of pressing responsibilities.

It is easy to become consumed by the immediate concerns of the present and fail to reflect on our past challenges or future ambitions. I believe, however, that we can all find value in considering which of our characteristics, as teachers, have led to successful teaching and will continue to provide positive opportunities for growth in our classrooms.

Considering the many attributes that define a teacher, I would like to focus on a few that are most important and influential: love, faithfulness and humility.

Perhaps the most valuable and impactful quality of a teacher is our call to love. As teachers, we tend to emphasize our enthusiasm for our subject material or care for our kids without truly hitting the mark on how our love is best shown in the art of teaching.

It is true that a passion for our subject matter drives us to better understand our content and teach it in new and meaningful ways to students. However, this is not the extent to which our passion and zeal may be used in our teaching. Love is not limited to one arena, but encompasses a care for others, a passion for teaching, and an ambition for growth. It is truly the act of putting the needs of others before our own.

We demonstrate love in our lives as teachers when we sacrifice our own needs or desires to serve those around us. We show love through service to students, staff members and families in the community. It is a great blessing to have the ability and opportunity to sacrificially love those around us in a number of different spheres. This is not something we, as teachers, can take for granted and we must remain vigilant of better ways to love and help others.

Secondly, we ought to consider faithfulness. Faithfulness in teaching can manifest itself in a number of different ways. We thrive as teachers when we are faithfully seeking to grow, modelling hard work for our students, and improving in our understanding of others and ourselves. This benefits not only our students, but also our co-workers and community as a whole.

As faithful teachers, we take advantage of opportunities to better communicate with others, develop a higher quality in our work, and reflect upon our own fields of service. In every one of these areas, we grow to better serve others and provide students with greater opportunities for success.

Finally, we benefit as we ponder our call to humility as teachers. Humility is crucial in the realm of education, as it allows us to remain patient with others, seek help and support, and grow in every one of our relationships.

As we approach teacher leadership with humility, we model for students the pathway to successful learning. We demonstrate that a genuine spirit of modesty allows us to grow both intellectually and socially. Teachers and students alike grow greatly as they humble themselves and earnestly seek to learn from others. This creates a culture that encourages education and inspires community growth.

As we examine these three critical elements of a teacher’s life and instructional habits, it is easy to take one of two different responses. We can either remain confident in our own capabilities as teachers or feel overwhelmed by the need to be better; neither of these best serve teachers or students.

I believe that our best response as teachers is a combination of the two. We can reflect on these teaching characteristics with both a sense of confidence and comfort while we also yearn for healthy growth. We have no need to be overwhelmed by the magnitude of these responsibilities because teaching and learning are founded upon steady and gradual growth.

As you look forward in this school year, consider the areas in which you may be more loving, faithful in service, and humble in leadership. Take heart knowing that you have been equipped to serve by others who have been loving, faithful and humble to you. As we grow in our capacity as teachers this year, we embrace the gift of better serving our students and communities.