1) Don’t look like an idiot in front of your students! Know your stuff, keep your credibility
The fastest way to lose your students is for them to think you’re an idiot. Why would they pay attention to someone who knows less than they do? This is the biggest mistake I find most new teachers make. They come in only a few years out from University thinking they know everything when they don’t. Research your topic, review your notes, answer your own problems before you ask your students to. My secret is working out the problems in full and having my walkthrough with me to refer to when needed. This helps prevent those stupid mistakes and keeps you on track.
2) Taking poor behavior to personally
Here’s a politically incorrect statement. Some kids are just little shits, it’s not your fault so don’t let it get to you.
3) Failing to teach at a level the students can understand
The curse of knowledge. I first heard that phrase from Pat Flynn who discussed it on his podcast. The curse of knowledge is the inability to grasp the lack of foundation that your students’ have prior to your instruction or the inability to pick up or understand novel concepts, as well as you think they should. It stems from our knowledge coming into to the situation. We have such a solid foundation that it’s difficult to think about where our students are coming from. Trying to teach fractions? Better make sure your students know how to add first. Want them to learn bonding? Don’t assume they know what an atom is. This lack of foundation makes it very difficult for students to “get” the next level of material. Review the basics before you start then build up.
4) Rushing through the curriculum just to finish it whether students understood or not
Look, I know we all have a curriculum to cover but you’re not doing your students any favors by skipping through material just so that you finish. Tell me, what happens if you don’t? What’s the worst that will happen? Probably nothing. Well you say “They won’t be prepared for next year”. That’s true but let’s face it, are our students usually fully prepared from the previous year? Are they all set to conquer new information based on their strong knowledge from last year or have they mostly forgotten everything and need to learn it again? Probably somewhere in the middle but the point is, they will get a chance to get caught up. They will see the material again and if not, the world will go on and at least they will have a firm understand of the material you did cover.
5) Working too much, too long. This includes marking!
Three Key Points:
- You don’t need to mark everything! Homework doesn’t need to be marked. If you give homework you can collect it, you can walk around to see who has it done but don’t mark it. If you do collect it, give it a quick checkmark and hand it back the next day, they won’t know the difference. Homework should be formative and frankly, it’s for their benefit. If they don’t do it, they lose out. Don’t spend your entire evening away from your kids because you were marking a 20 question homework set from 30 kids.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel! There’s lots of great stuff out there that teachers are more than willing to pass along. There’s also Teachers Pay Teachers if you’re looking for something in particular or aren’t impressed with your colleague’s 30-year-old transparencies.
- This might sound bad but you don’t always need to be perfect. Trying to be perfect when good is more than good enough is a time suck. Just get’er done.
6) Trying to keep up with the boards brilliant monthly policy changes and initiatives
This going back to #1 about working too hard because honestly, if you changed into the type of teacher you are and did the types of things the board asked you to do every time they issued one of their creeds, you’d never sleep. Since by the time we master the newest class site or means of instruction, the board does a 180 or 270-degree turn and we just have to do it all over again. Listen to what they have to say, try some of it out if it makes sense to you, give it a go but use caution.
7) Teaching to the strong kid and leaving the underachiever/class-clown behind because it’s easier
I admit, there have been times when I’ve asked a question, called on the “smart kid”, said good job after he/she got the correct answer and then moved on, feeling good that my strong teaching was making a real difference and that we could move on. Frankly, it’s easier (and feels better) to be told you’re doing a good job rather than that you need to keep at it. Make sure you don’t move on because it’s easier. Don’t give yourself that pat on the back because the kid who probably knew the answer before class even started, got it right.
8) Don’t be boring!
Students hate boring, I hate boring. Think of the last staff meeting you were at, that’s how your students feel when they have a boring teacher. Make jokes, have fun, loosen up. It doesn’t always need to be about the content. Your students will appreciate it and hopefully, a good laugh will keep them awake.
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