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.
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.