Becoming a great teacher

I was doing my annual (okay, I’m lying, perhaps once every 3 years), hard drive cleanup recently when I  came across an old document entitled ‘teaching tips and resources.’ Looking at its contents, I was taken vividly back to when I first became a teacher: Frantically scavenging for every morsel of ‘good teacher’ practise I could find and trying to memorise it!

Honestly? It didn’t help much. Becoming a good teacher is a slow process… there’s a reason teachers with experience are frequently paid more or hired first. I’m still very much at the beginning of my teacher journey. However, there are some crucial lessons I have learned that have helped me immeasurably.

DO

  1. Watch, listen, learn. Don’t copy, hoard and archive. Teaching is about feeling and engagement. Sure, make a quick note if you see another teacher using a tool you think is great. But writing down what they do and trying to emulate it is not going to help.
  2. Join a PLN (Professional Learning Network)
  3. Reflect
  4. Stimulate your own interest by watching videos, documentaries, reading scientific papers etc. It’so important to stay in touch with the wider world of your subject/s.
  5. Be unafraid of trying something different. The traditional educational system is bad and failing in many ways. Think about how YOU like to learn and try to bring this into your classroom. Ask your students how they like to learn. Try something completely new- what’s the worst that could happen?
  6. Start with the the objectives. Tie everything back to the objectives so that students walk away with a clear thumbnail sketch of what they have learned in the lesson .
  7.  Give constant formative assessment. There’s a place for tests, yes. But it is not the only way to find out what your students know. Design units that have integrated formative assessment tasks. Engage with your class. Teach them how to assess themselves. When you set a task, make sure it has a ‘checklist’ of things for students t tick off as they complete them.
  8. Get Google certified.
  9. Give regular, useful feedback. I usually do this in a form of ‘WWW'(What went well) and ‘EBI’ (Even better if)
  10. Give students regular, informal, FUN quizzes. I like to use platforms like Quizizz (https://quizizz.com/)  for this or use Google Forms and give students instant feedback.

And most importantly

11. Be kind. Never forget that your students have lives outside the classroom. Be sensitive         to their thoughts and feelings in as many ways as you can.

Don’t

  1. Give unnecessary homework
  2. Allow yourself to feel bored. If you’re bored, they’re bored.
  3. Base a lesson on a textbook chapter. Start with the objectives: Use the textbook to supplement.
  4. Shout, raise your voice or lose control.
  5. Think of your students as a ‘class’- they are people- individuals- not a monotonous lump
  6. Over test. Testing in any way, shape or form soaks up time and energy like a sponge. A test series once a year is often necessary and can even be useful. Testing all the time does not promote learning.
  7. Spend all your time trying to design the ‘perfect’ resource. It doesn’t matter how brilliant your power points are. Research has shown engagement is the key thing that really helps students learn. The more they are doing, the better.
  8. Feel guilty for not feeling exhausted after a lesson. ^ previous point.
  9. Be afraid of appearing vulnerable. Your students are people. Your willingness to admit your don’t know something may help them feel okay with not knowing things as well- therefore more likely to ask for help
  10. Think you know everything. To be a teacher is first and foremost to be a learner.
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2 Responses to Becoming a great teacher

  1. Becky says:

    Love reading your thoughts, posts and journey, wish I had done more of this when I started out prob wouldn’t have repeated the same silly mistakes at times 😀

    • ShellySchutte says:

      Thanks. It’s the main reason I started this really…. to keep track of the things I try and what works and what doesn’t. Just a bonus if other people enjoy reading or benefit as well! 🙂

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