Teaching is one of the most important professions in today’s society. As a teacher, you will shape the minds of others and encourage them to think independently. To become a good teacher, it’s important to be organized. Create lesson plans, objectives, activities, and assessment plans well before each class day. Get your students interested in learning by fostering a positive, supportive, yet challenging classroom environment. Seek out other teachers for assistance, too.
Developing a Good Classroom Environment
1. Create a daily objective for your students. This is your way of providing a roadmap for your students, It shows them that you’ve put thought into the day’s work and you know where it is heading. It’s best if the objectives are clear, brief, and realistic. As each objective is completed, remind your students of what they’ve accomplished together.
- For example, in a high school literature class, an objective might be to complete a close reading of a particular poem by the end of the period.
- Some teachers find it helpful to post that day’s objectives on the board.
- It’s okay if not every objective is met every day. In some cases it’s better to follow the flow of a particular conversation, instead of railroading back to the original subject matter.
2. Listen to your students. Ask them open-ended questions after they’ve made a statement. Encourage them to ask you questions as well. Show that you are listening to them by nodding your head or gesturing for them to continue. Give them eye contact while they are speaking and try your best not to interrupt, unless you must redirect the conversation.
- Being an active listener shows your students that you respect their voice in the classroom. They will be more likely to give you respect as a teacher in return.
- It’s also a good idea to model for your students how to respectfully listen to someone while disagreeing with them. You might say, “I’m not sure I agree with what you are saying, can you tell me more? Or, does anyone else want to jump in?”
3. Keep students on task. Set time limits for classroom exercises or activities. In discussions, use your responses to their remarks as a classroom management tool. For example, you might say, “I really like what you are saying. How do you think it connects with objective number five?”
4. Push your students to succeed. Try to create an environment in which your students will be constantly intellectually challenged. Let them know that it is okay to fail on occasion. You want to strike a balance between setting too high of goals for them and being a push-over. Use your students’ progress to guide your way. They should be steadily improving, but not without considerable effort.
- For example, you might give a short, advanced-level reading assignment to high school students and ask them to use a dictionary to look up unfamiliar words. If used sparingly, this is a great way to challenge students to expand their vocabulary.
Dealing with Classroom Challenges
- Discipline in a prompt and thoughtful way. Make the rules for your classroom and each exercise very clear and consistent. If a student breaks a rule, handle it immediately in the classroom before moving forward. However, once you’ve made a disciplinary action, don’t dwell on it or you could create additional problems. Also, make sure that any consequences that you assign match the level of the offense committed.
- For example, if a student accidentally disrupts a designated “quiet period” this can generally be corrected with a simple verbal warning for a first offense.
- You can also ask the student to stay after class and speak with you. This is one way to issue a consequence without disrupting your classroom.
2. Assign leadership roles to difficult students. Some students create problems in a classroom due to sheer boredom or feeling disconnected with the subject or their teacher. Start with giving a challenging student small, personal tasks to complete. Then, over time, give them more difficult and public responsibilities.
- For example, you might ask a student to serve as a time-keeper for an in-class exercise.
- Be aware that this is an option that won’t work for every challenging student. If they don’t do well at the simple tasks, don’t give them more advanced ones.
3. Express a personal interest in all students. If you show your students that you enjoy their company and value their opinions, then they are far less likely to exhibit challenging classroom behaviors. Make a point of asking your students about their daily lives and personal interests. While staying professional, tell your students information about you in return.
- For example, you might talk with your students about where they are going for an upcoming break.
4. Stay calm when addressing argumentative students. It’s really easy to lose your cool when faced with a challenging or critical student. Instead, take a deep breath and try to look at their perspective. Ask them to explain their position in further detail. Encourage other students to enter into the discussion.
5. Give quiet students many avenues of participation. There are many possible reasons why a student might remain silent in your classroom. Encourage them to learn by creating a safe environment for all opinions. Offer a variety of assignment options, including journal submissions or email logs. Avoid putting a spotlight on quiet students, unless that fits your overall teaching style.
6. Offer assistance to struggling students. Do your best to identify students who are struggling academically early on. Consider offering in-class resources, such as pair exercises. Or, direct them to external resources, such as subject tutoring.
Maintaining the Right Mindset
- Be a professional at all times. Dress appropriately for your teaching environment. Keep your teaching materials and classroom organized. Spend time preparing for each day of teaching. Show respect when talking with your colleagues and administrators. Think about what it means to be a professional teacher and try to live up to that model.
- It sometimes helps to think about one of your past teachers who you would describe as a true professional. Try to think about how you could in some ways mimic their behaviors in your own classroom and career.
2. Laugh and keep your sense of humor. Try to teach your students that learning doesn’t have to be serious 24/7. If you do something that is funny or goofy, then laugh at yourself. Being a bit self-deprecating will make your students more comfortable with you. If you incorporate humor or jokes into your lesson plans, then your students will likely remember the material better as well.
3. Repeat positive mantras on bad days. Not every teaching day will go perfectly and some might even fall into the category of disaster. However, it’s important to stay positive or your students will pick up and reflect your negative energy. Take a moment to tell yourself, “It’s going to be okay,” or, “Tomorrow is a new day.” Put a smile on your face and keep going.
- You might even say out loud, “I love teaching because…” and list off a few reasons. For example, think about a moment when you saw real improvement in a student’s life due to your efforts.
- If it’s been a bad day for the students, too, then you might even say that you want to do a “re-set.” Tell them that you want to formally start the day over from that point forward.
4. Create good relationships with the parents of students. Communication is key when working with parents. Keep in touch with them via in-person conferences as well as written behavioral reports. Let them know that you are interested in their ideas and perspectives on teaching. You can also solicit their help for events and celebrations in your classroom.
- Make contact with the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) at your school and ask what you can do to help.
Improving as a Teacher
1. Seek out teaching mentors. Look for other teachers at your school who are willing to discuss teaching with you or who will even let you sit in on their classes. If they are interested, invite them to your classroom as well. After they’ve seen you teach, ask them to provide you with constructive criticism. See if they have suggestions for how you can be an even better teacher.
- For example, they might suggest that you state your classroom objectives more clearly. Then, you can talk about how you’d go about doing this.
- It’s also a good idea to exchange teaching materials with your mentors and colleagues. Show them the format that you use for quizzes or tests and ask to see their versions. You don’t have to teach the same subject to benefit from talking about teaching.
- You can also find mentors via teaching organizations or even at conferences. Stay in touch with the people that you meet and seek out their advice when you need it.
2. Take time to reflect. At the end of each semester or teaching period, sit down and evaluate what worked well and what didn’t. Be honest with yourself and realistically assess what is in your power to change before teaching that particular class again. If you’re preparing for a certain course that always causes problems, you might consider reaching out to your mentor for advice.
- For example, you might find that your students react better to projects using media. If that’s the case, think about how you can incorporate more media-driven activities in your classroom.
3. Take advantage of professional development opportunities. Go to teaching conferences in your area and meet other education professionals. Write articles about teaching and publish them in local magazines or newspapers. Serve as a grader for exams in your area, such as the Advanced Placements tests. Keep learning and you’ll be a model for your students, too.
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