Inspire Your Students
The word inspire means to stimulate the mind or emotions to a high level of feeling or activity. In order to accomplish this you need to maintain an incredible level of focus and enthusiasm in the classroom. Have a love of your subject area/areas, be convicted about the importance of every student’s learning, and constantly be looking for and then trying out slightly better ways to improve your delivery and your instruction. Always remember that everything you do is under the microscope of your students’ eyes, ears,and minds.
Strategy – Two
Develop a Sense of Humor
Using humor is a great way to increase your effectiveness as a teacher. Humor will always grab the attention of your students, and you need to grab your students’ attention to teach them. Once your students believe that you have the ability to inject humor into your instruction, they will be hanging on to your every word. Remember that kids love to laugh, so give them something to laugh about. Plus, humor is a great way to break tension and create a more relaxed learning environment. Humor will make you and your teaching more interesting and accessible to every student.
Strategy – Three
Be Specific and Conservative with Praise.
Be specific and conservative with your praise. The research suggests that praise is supposed to be given to children on a 9-1 ratio, for every one constructive suggestion there should be 9 words or statements of praise. But those 9 must be specific and communicate exactly what the student did. Often teachers go overboard with giving general rather than specific praise. An example of general praise would be when a teacher writes on a paper or tells a students, “Nice job.” Specific praise would be, “Excellent opening and closing in essay, or excellent use of figurative language, good use of transitional words and phrases, complete answer addressing all elements of question.” You are praising for something specific because you want the student to be aware of what it is you want them to continue doing. And the praise is much more meaningful and believable when something specific is attached to it. Praise given at the right time for the right thing will build a respectful and responsible classroom environment.
Call Students by Their Actual Names
Make sure you treat your pupils with respect. Don’t use nicknames. Names such as Cheesy, Shorty, Terminator and Rebel are all very good for the playground but have no place in the classroom. Many nicknames have a negative connotation, and they only serve to reinforce a student’s negative view of himself/herself. When teachers call students by such nicknames, it has a tendency to eliminate the proper boundaries that should be part of any teacher/student relationship. It also causes students to view their teachers as their peers rather than as authority figures.
Stay Away From Gossiping and Complaining in the Faculty Room with Other Teachers
You can’t always have things the way you want, and certainly in schools today your students come to you with many problems not related to school. Complaining about students in the faculty room does nothing to support the educational environment. Once you find other teachers who enjoy complaining about students, then it becomes much easier to get into a routine of complaining to each other, which then makes it easier for other teachers to joint right in. What usually goes along with this is lots of talk about how the students’ lack of achievement in the classroom is caused by outside circumstances such as the family or by the students’ personality. It helps you take the focus off of yourself and off of anything you can do to be part of the solution. Plus, if you’re badmouthing your students, and other teachers are feeding right into it, you will walk back into your classroom with greater dislike and more reasons for having a negative attitude toward those students.
As the teacher you have to be aware of the amount of gossiping and complaining you do about the school, administration, or other teachers. The school may not run the way you want, and administration may be battling many issues related to the community, student discipline, and parents. Bear in mind that no amount of complaining will solve these problems. Staff and school morale is really based upon how much trust you have for other teachers and administration. If complaining and gossiping is part of your school culture, the trust that you have for others will be low, and believe it or not your fellow teachers and even administration will have less trust for you.
Learn How to Deal with Criticism Effectively
As a teacher you will always have to go through the evaluation process. Sometimes you will be told when a supervisor or administrator is coming in to observe, sometimes not. Of course, you would like to believe that you are doing a fine job only to discover that your evaluation states otherwise. You have to realize that principals are told that they have to find areas of your performance that need improvement; that is part of their job. Also, keep in mind that principals observe many teachers and of course they see many best practices being used. So even if you think you are doing everything right, the principal may be noticing that you could be doing certain things better or more effectively. Of course, there is always room for improvement in every teacher. Think of your observation and any comments as an opportunity for improvement. And make sure that you don’t take on a defensive or negative attitude toward the administrator who wrote your evaluation. If you are criticized for your performance you have to ask yourself if there is any truth to the criticism, and then begin to take the steps necessary for improvement. Of course, if you truly feel that the observation is blatantly unfair, then go through the proper channels such as writing a rebuttal and talking to the union representative in your building.
Always be on time for your assignments – Classroom or Duty
Let’s face it. You can’t focus on the degree of punctuality in your students if you are always late. Being late to your class is risky business – too many things can go wrong. If you are not there on time, you are setting a bad example for your students, and actually encouraging student tardiness. Duty assignments are no different. You are assigned to a specific duty for a reason; be there when you are supposed to be. Make punctuality your goal.
Be Honest and Realistic about your Student’s Academic Achievement
Too often teachers award a grade of an A or a B to a student when in reality the student doesn’t know the material, and a more realistic grade would be a C or even a D. Parental or administrative pressure or curriculum time lines can place you in a position of awarding a grade that is not in line with your student’s actual performance or ability. This is more of a problem for the student and the student’s parents than for you. Students who have an inflated view of their own ability move on to the next marking period or the next grade with a lethal combination: an inflated view of their academic ability, overconfidence, and probably a lack of the prerequisite skills they need to succeed. These students ultimately become behavior and academic problems for another teacher who often will blame you for the problem. Plus, another huge problem arises because the student’s parents also develop the same inflated view of their child’s ability. This grade inflation only produces future pain for the student, the parents, any of the student’s future teachers, and may even come back to haunt you.
Teach for Mastery
This is easier said than done but well worth the effort. Once a student is tested and receives a passing grade the assumption is that the student has mastered the material. Unfortunately, this is often an incorrect assumption. Students can pass a test for a variety of reasons; they can cram, cheat, be lucky, or maybe you feel very benevolent when you are grading the test. In order to check for true mastery, include some of the previously tested/taught material in each test you give. That way you can determine how much information has truly been learned by your students.
Keep your objectivity when grading students work
You may be giving the students that you like and who are not behavior problems better grades than they actually deserve. How often have you semi subconsciously raised a grade of a student you really like? When you do this you grading based upon the your feeling about the student rather than on the student’s performance. Well behaved, likable students need to be held to the same academic standard as your students who are behavior problems. Awarding higher grades to certain students creates an atmosphere of favoritism, and can lead to student academic irresponsibility. If possible use rubrics and other objective measurement instruments to help make your grading more fair and more objective.
Kids will always model what they see adults doing. If your desk is a mess it becomes far more difficult to ask kids to keep their work area neat and orderly. If you forget to make copies for an assignment and realize it during the lesson, and then send a student to the office to make copies it becomes rather difficult to be critical of students when they forget or don’t do their homework. Stay planned and organized at all times. This communicates to your students the importance of this quality.
Keep Every Minute Planned
Plan your work and work your plan. From the minute the period begins to the minute it ends, be sure to have every minute planned. You know you are not doing this when one of your students asks, “What are we doing next? Or “What should we be doing now?” Your students should be so busy that they shouldn’t even have the opportunity to ask that question. My suggestion is to over-plan rather than under-plan, and always have something extra that you can begin doing if you have a few spare minutes. Believe it or not, a great teacher will actually be upset when the period is over rather than relieved, because there is never enough time to either introduce something new or review something old. You will not be doing your students any favor by giving them a few minutes to chat or do work from other classes. The more engaged your students are, and the less down time there is, the better behaved they will be. A good strategy to use to make sure you are not giving your students too much time to do either independent work or group work is to use a timer. If you don’t you will always give your students too much time to complete the assignment. When you stop teaching prior to the end of an assigned period, you are only looking for trouble. You may think that we are being a nice guy by giving the students a break, but in reality all you are doing is encouraging irresponsible behavior.
Build Relationships with Your Students
For some reason it always seems as if the students who challenge you the most on a day to day basis all have one thing in common; they have the best attendance records! Can you deny that you secretly hope these students will be absent? Sometimes, you just feel like you need a break from a student. But these difficult students are the ones you should be focusing on building the best relationships with. Your students all have a sixth sense and can pick up on your body language and can recognize when you are pleased with them or not, and when you like them or not. Try putting more energy into building relationships with all your students, including those students whom you like the least. When your difficult students start to believe that you will give them positive attention, they will look less for negative attention, and that will improve the climate of your classroom. Focus especially on maintaining respectful body language, and no matter what, don’t communicate to students in a negative manner by using slumped shoulders, or looks of disgust.
Be out and about in your classroom, not sitting behind a desk
When you teach a lesson or while your students are completing seat work, you should be moving around the room and mingling with students. You routinely move around the room you can address problems as they come up without any drama, and you can prevent many potentially disruptive situations from occurring. When you are always moving around the room, you become much more aware of which students are having difficulty grasping new concepts, and you can help them without embarrassing them. This also creates lots of opportunities for you to compliment your students’ diligence.
Don’t get sidetracked or lose the focus of your lesson
Due to a student’s off topic question of comment
You should dodge irrelevant questions and issues and continue with the teaching process. Elementary students have a tendency to blurt out comments that are completely unrelated to the lesson at hand. Secondary students who are quite savvy know how to distract a teacher with a question or a comment that they know will start a discussion unrelated to the course content. Make time for discussions but don’t let students sidetrack you into conversations that are irrelevant to the topic at hand.
Keep all discussions G rated
Certain discussions just can’t go on in a classroom. Students who are chatting amongst themselves and are using profanity or vulgarity must be stopped. Students who are angry at another teacher and are badmouthing the teacher in your presence must also be stopped. Discussions that involve prejudicial comments or that are judgmental in nature also are also discussions that should not be allowed to continue. Topics such as religious beliefs should be avoided unless the teacher is teaching a lesson on world religion. The important thing here is to teach the lesson and to avoid conveying your own personal beliefs or leanings.
The Classroom Is Not the Place to Become Angry
There is truly no place in any classroom for anger towards your students. In the elementary classroom, if you display anger, the children will become afraid of you, and they will begin to feel unsafe in your classroom. In the secondary classroom, if you display anger, you will be perceived as out of control and foolish, and you will lose the respect of your students.
Integrate the Multiple Intelligences into Your Teaching Style
The theory of Multiple Intelligences as devised by Howard Gardner proposes that the traditional intelligence quotient measure of intelligence does not give the whole picture in terms of a student’s intelligence. According to Gardner there are eight intelligences that exist in each person in varying degrees: linguistic intelligence, logical-mathematical intelligence; visual-spatial intelligence, bodily kinesthetic intelligence, musical intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, intrapersonal intelligence, and naturalistic intelligence. First, get a summary review of the intelligences and then try to design lessons that address some of the intelligences that your students may have. Adjusting your lesson plans does not mean that you have to address all of the intelligences in each lesson. Just try incorporating elements of the different intelligences into your lessons to maximize your students’ interest, involvement, and potential for learning.
Use the Redo, Retake Method
Students who do poorly on tests and quizzes may feel that they didn’t have enough time to study or review. Maybe, maybe not, but whatever the case, if students do poorly on a test and you believe that they should have an opportunity to improve their grade, offer an opportunity for them to retake the test. A good idea is to average both test grades together to come up with a final grade for the test. Remember the grade is not the most important thing; mastery is what we are after.
Give Homework Assignments out Well Before the End of the Period and Have Homework Posted Daily on One Section of the Board
Teachers who teach bell to bell are to be applauded. Often when the bell rings all students get up and leave the room. What students need to know is that the bell is for the teacher, not for them. The bell is the indicator to end instruction; however, the teacher is the one who dismisses the students or at the elementary level ends instruction. Often teachers are trying to give out homework assignments while the students are running out of the classroom. The next day half of the students come in without their homework and tell the teacher that they were never given the assignment or didn’t hear when the assignment was given out. Make it a point to give out homework assignments at the beginning of the period. An even better alternative is to have assignments posted on the board in the same spot every day, with students understanding that it is their responsibility to record any assignments before they leave the room.
Strategy Twenty One
Use your Planning Time Productively
Planning time is for lesson planning, making phone calls to parents, and meeting with other teachers or administration. Planning time is not for socializing with teachers in the faculty room or for making your personal telephone calls. Your lunch period is the time for all of that. Do your planning, paperwork, or grading during this time. Find creative ways to use your planning time and work toward improvement of instruction. Your job will be easier in the long run.
Strategy Twenty Two
Use Videos Occasionally as part of Your Planning – Not to Kill Time During a Period
Showing movies and recorded news items occasionally is a great way to enrich a lesson; however, showing videos to kill time is a no-no. Give your students study guides to fill out while they are viewing a video, and turn off the video from time to time to allow for discussion. The discussion should be used to apply the information to material that you are teaching. The students should be required to answer questions on their study guide, and turn it in at the end of the period to allow you to determine if the students were actually paying attention to the video. Another great way to determine if students were paying attention is to have them create their own study guide based upon the content of the video.
Strategy Twenty Three
Use Your Cell Phone on Your Planning Period –
Not During Class Time
Many years ago cell phones were banned in schools because they were a distraction to the educational process. After 9-11 the rule became enforced less frequently and most students and teachers now come to school with cell phones and use them during school time. Students should not be allowed to use cell phones during class time for any reason, or in any manner – texting or taking pictures. You as the teacher are no exception, and you should not be taking calls, making calls, or texting during teaching time. If you do, you will take away your own effectiveness and credibility. Remember, it is very difficult to enforce a rule in your classroom that you yourself don’t abide by.
Strategy Twenty Four
Be Honest with Yourself About How You Feel About Your Students
Have you ever said something like this to one of your students, ” John, I really like you, but I don’t like your behavior”? Most of us have said something like this at one time or another. Understand that the truth of the matter is that you probably don’t like John after all. In order to effectively work with a student that you have problems with, you have to be honest with yourself. Admit to yourself that you really don’t like the student, because it is extremely different to separate a person from his or her behavior. Once you understand that you actually may not like a student, then you can try and take the necessary steps to build a relationship with him or her. The goal should be to help this student understand the negative perception others have of him or her because of certain behaviors, and then work to help the student change these negative behaviors. If you sincerely try to work with the student and you are successful in extinguishing some of these behaviors, who knows, you may end up liking him or her after all.
Strategy Twenty Five
Don’t Compare Your Students With Other Students Or With Their Brothers or Sisters
If you have been teaching for many years the chances are pretty good you will have students in your class who are the brothers or sisters of your former students. Sometimes the former student was a nightmare, and other times the former student was a star. Don’t prematurely draw conclusions about your new student and don’t compare the student with his or her brother or sister. Do not make comments such as: Are you as smart as your brother? Are you good in math too? You may believe that because you had one student who was a behavior problem, any siblings will be behavior problems. Holding preconceived notions such as these will prejudice your opinion of the sibling, and it’s just not the right approach to have. Beware also of comparisons between the students in your class. All students are individuals and have unique strengths and weaknesses. Recognize the uniqueness of your students, and encourage them to become their personal best.
Strategy Twenty Five
Try Using Integrative Learning
Cooperative learning is a technique that you may be using in your classroom. This has students working in groups of three or four while completing assignments. Learning needs to be done on an independent level first. Students who are placed in groups may have difficulty developing their skills to learn on their own, and may give the illusion that they have mastered academic material, when really they haven’t. Try using something called integrative learning. This type of approach moves students in and out of groups. During direct instruction when your students should be focused on you, your students should be seated in rows. This will not only improve student attention, but it will place your student in the same arrangement that they will be in when they take classroom and standardized test. Once the direct instruction has been completed, your students’ can move back into a group arrangement to discuss the material that was taught.
Strategy Twenty Six
Work to Understand the Inclusion Movement in Order to Address the Needs of Your Special Education Students
Inclusion is here to stay and you must take it seriously. Inclusion combines regular education and special education together in one classroom. The class has one regular education teacher and one special education teacher who co-teach. The special education teacher modifies lessons in order to address the needs of the special education students. This can create a whole host of challenges for both teachers; however it is a mandated, so everything must be done to make ensure student success. You as the teachers should do everything possible to understand inclusion, and how to deal with this difficult environment. The next ten strategies will address some of the concerns that you may have as you deal with the combination of regular education and special education students in your classroom
Strategy Twenty Seven
Deal with Individual Student Abilities – Not Disabilities
As a teacher it is important for you deal with your students as individuals and not the student’s condition or syndrome. Students will come to you with conditions such as ADHD, Autism, Aspersers, or ODD. Try to stay focused on the symptoms or the characteristic of these conditions, and not get caught up in the syndrome itself. By focusing on the characteristics of the condition modifications will be far easier to implement. By focusing on the syndrome you may begin to excuse certain behaviors and academic limitations and begin to believe that the student is incapable of staying in their seat or completing more challenging assignments.
Strategy Twenty Eight
Find out Early What Your Students Already Know
A special education student’s ability level should be in their Individual Educational Plan. This information is relatively accurate; however a student may be able to comprehend information on the third grade reading level, but have a vocabulary that is on the fourth grade level. Informal testing will help you determine student’s abilities so you don’t waste time re-teaching material that the student has already mastered. Of course it is always good to reinforce already learned material, but find out if it needs to be re-taught or just reinforced.
Strategy Twenty Nine
Stay as Structured as Possible and Develop a Daily Routine
Inclusion classrooms have a wide variety of students with different ability levels as well as many different personalities, and learning styles. In order to manage the classroom effectively it is extremely important to develop daily routines so that students will know what is going to occur everyday in your classroom. If your routine is going to change let your students know about it as soon as possible. School assemblies, field trips, and classroom parties can change your daily routine, and affect your student’s academic performance, and behavior.
Keep it Simple until You are Sure Your Students can Handle More Complex Information
Special Education students need to be fed academic information at a very basic level. Once you as the teacher believe that the students have a grasp of the information that is being taught you can then begin to present information in a more abstract manner. If you are trying to get your students to learn their 3 time tables, the use of flashcards and other exercises that encourages student memorization is an invaluable strategy. Once you are convinced that the student understands his/her facts you can then move to more complex activities such as word problems.