Things Good Teachers Routinely Do Right

From my experience, teaching is a lot like being an athlete. There’s a ton of preparation, a need for flexibility, and you have to be physically and mentally strong to face the day and be successful. Naturally, regular routines are a key ingredient to that success. Here are a few things that good teachers routinely do right:

Listen to Student Feedback

Like most, my first year as a teacher had its highs and lows, and there were a few classes that I struggled with more than others. To help me better manage the classroom, I used a student notes box which allowed students to tell me how they felt about the class and whether or not there was something they’d like to see change. My students definitely took to the idea. I’d often find notes in the box from students and be clueless as to when they had dropped them off. Keep in mind, students can be brutally honest, but the feedback is also invaluable for improving classroom management and reminding yourself of what it was once like to be a student.

Write Objectives on the Board

One requirement of my administrators was to have my objectives written on the board for students to see. Not only was this important and helpful to students–giving them a heads up on what they could expect during our 90-minute block–but it also helped me process the structure of my lesson before my students arrived.

Model Expectations

One way I would model what I expected to happen when students worked in pairs or groups, was to simulate the behaviors I expected to see from all students, with one student in front of the entire classroom. I would often choose a disruptive or typically non-compliant student to model with. I think that helped by both giving the student desired attention, and starting the day off right with the student, which improved the chances that the student and the rest of the class would meet expectations and objectives.

Alter Lesson Plans

Another requirement of my administrators was lesson plans, and your entire week was due before the start of the week. This meant a lot of work on the weekends throughout my first semester, and a lot of reflection during my second time around. There were times when I would look at the lesson plans that I had used a half year before and shake my head, thinking “What kind of activity is this?!”, which isn’t such a bad thing after all. Like objectives, lesson plans help me process the structure of my lesson before I enter the classroom. If I know an activity didn’t go as planned the first time around, I alter the activity or replace it all together.

Be the Leader of the Classroom

Being the leader of the classroom is essential to having a healthy and productive learning environment. A healthy and productive learning environment is driven by attainable and understandable expectations and procedures. Without a teacher to lead the classroom, expectations will not be understood and procedures will never be followed. If I’m not the leader, no one will be.

Read Subject Books During the Summer Break

Finally…summer break! Not only is summer the time to recharge and relax for teachers who’ve spent countless hours preparing lessons and activities for their students long after dismissal, it’s also the time to continue one’s professional development, and that includes the kind your state’s DOE doesn’t give you credit for, like reading books related to your subject. This is where I get all my interesting anecdotes and factoids that only serve to broaden my ideas for activities and strengthen the appeal of my lectures. I even share these books with my students. For example, in my 8th grade civics class, when I ended the unit on the political process, I wrote on the Smartboard:

Suggested Reading: The Waxman Report: How Congress Really Works by Henry A. Waxman

In response, a student skeptically said to me, “You know no one’s really going to read that, right?” I laughed. She was probably right, but as a teacher, part of my core philosophy involves the belief in the minority thinker; the eccentric; the one kid who sneakily writes that book title down in the margin of her notebook.


What do you think a good teacher routinely does right? Leave your comments below and sign up for my free newsletter to receive more education tips and blog posts.

3 English Phrases to Use At the End of the Work Week

Unless you are in an industry like retail or the restaurant business, which tends to require weekend hours, the typical work week for full time workers in the United States and many other countries is Monday through Friday. The following are 3 business English phrases you might hear and use at the end of a long work week:

Thank goodness it’s Friday!

This phrase is so common place that there’s even a chain restaurant inspired by it. After all the meetings, the scheduling, the tasks and project deadlines, you’ve made it to the end of the week! You’ve walked into the office or logged onto your laptop on a Friday morning, and you have a full day ahead of you, but the weekend is on the way. Thank goodness it’s Friday! (there’s even a variation for you grumpy folks out there, myself included: Thank god…!) I recommend saying this to yourself, colleagues and associates to start your day off positive.

Any plans for the weekend?

This is a question that you can pose to a colleague. You are asking if they are doing anything exciting, unique or special during their time off from work. In some cases, it’s a precursor to asking a colleague to join you somewhere at some point during the weekend or for a coworker to invite you to an event/a dinner party/etc. One caveat for customer service reps: I do not recommend you ask this to customers over the phone; they want you to fix the problem that they’ve come to you with, not share with you their weekend plans. In short, keep this one between staff and friends.

I hope you get a chance/find time to relax.

I once had a superintendent who would send a weekly email before the weekend to celebrate staff birthdays, make district announcements, and offer strategies and suggestions to attain success in the classroom. He would always sign off or close the email with the advice to “relax and recharge” for the following work week. It was kind of like a drill sergeant’s version of this phrase: I hope you get a chance (OR) I hope you find time to relax. What you are doing when saying this to a colleague, even a manager, is acknowledging the hard work that the person has put in over the course of the last 5 days, and that you recognize that they deserve a break, and hope that they take some time to sit back and enjoy the weekend, instead of worrying about work.

What are your favorite phrases to use at the end of the week? Are there any that you’ve heard, yet don’t quite fully understand?

Leave your comments below, sign up for our newsletter to receive more free business English tips, and have a great weekend!

What’s Your Favorite Music to Listen to While Studying? my full-time gig is in education, I’m also a musician and music lover who appreciates a wide array of genres: hip hop, blues, new age, rock, jazz & classical, in no particular order. And while I have some bad habits (namely, listening to C-Span in the background while writing and preparing lessons), I know that there’s only a few types of music that I can let play in the background while doing things that are academic in nature. So let me take a second to turn off Brian Lamb (while you turn off Black Sabbath) and I’ll share with you a list of my favorite types of music to play when it’s time to work. Count-off a 1, a 2, a 1, 2, 3, 4!

  1. New Age on Calm Radio

This is a big, expansive genre that ranges from traditional piano music and single instrument showcases to atmospheric & outer space synthesizer sounds. The idea is simplicity; calm and relaxing sounds that just ask that you hear them while focusing on your academic task at hand.  Recommendation: in my humble opinion, George Winston is the greatest living piano player on Earth and can a play a little something for everyone, whether its the Doors, Vince Guaraldi, religious classics or his own originals that attempt to express seasonal themes. Check George Winston out delivering this incredible live performance below.

  1. Classical music on my music library

Go to any public library or Half Priced Books store and you can borrow or buy all the classical music you’ll ever need on a collection of CDs for anywhere between free to a couple bucks a piece. Vinyl collectors can find a slew of great selections for cheap also. Recommendation: While I’d stay away from Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov for the purposes of academics (often very loud and anxious horn orchestrations), Felix Mendelssohn comes to mind as a go-to. I’m also a fan of Franz List, whose piano tracks can be utterly upbeat and motivating.

  1. Blues on TuneIn

You might have noticed at this point that I tend to avoid vocals and lyrics when studying or preparing. Well, this is my exception to the rule. TuneIn provides a lot of great radio stations across the U.S. and the globe, whether terrestrial or internet stations, and blues is one of my favorite offerings. I turn to shows like “Confessing the Blues”, “Blues After Hours” & the “Blues Connection”, especially when I’m working under the moon. The reason I can listen to the genre, as opposed to others with singing and lyrics, is the call and response nature of the music, and because the whole experience of blues cuts deep to my soul, and complements the efforts I’m putting into my work for the benefit of my students. Recommendation: Albert Collins…pure genius!

  1. Gregorian Chant on Calm Radio

I came across this gem of the meditative music world a few years ago while living in the Northern Neck of Virginia. It was also around the time that I had discovered Calm Radio. Its origins trace back to the 9th and 10th centuries in western and central Europe where choirs of men and boys sang sacred songs as part of the ceremonies of the Roman Catholic Church. I find that the songs help me relax, read and write. Take a listen.

Honorable Mention:

Jazz music, with one caveat: like other genres, some of it tends to be distracting, so tread lightly or know the band or musician well. I like the Crusaders, the incredible Bob James and for those looking for a more recent contemporary, check out Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band.

I hope you enjoyed this list. That said, I’d love to add to my repertoire, so please add your suggestions and comments below. Keep reading, and keep listening. Merry Christmas!