Anyone who is a teacher knows just how much really goes into teaching. On a good day, it can be a hard and rewarding job. When you are the one responsible for molding the up-and-coming teachers, however, there is an added pressure. Whether you are a veteran teacher or a newbie, it never hurts to go over some basic, solid teaching advice.
1. Be the Example
Parents are always told to model the right behavior because children are sponges and will copy what you do. If you curse, they will. If you get angry when there’s traffic, they will. If you roll your eyes at the slow cashier, they will. If you show love and compassion to everyone, they will.
It’s the same for the teaching profession. If you want your students to become patient and attentive teachers, then you need to be patient and attentive as well. If you want them to find unique ways for every child to learn, then you better do that too.
2. Do Unto Others
Everyone has a bad day. You’re running late for work, your kid had a tantrum at school drop-off, it’s raining, you spilled your coffee, and then a snarky student decides this would be a good day to give you an attitude. It’s fair to say, most people would probably toss that golden rule right out the window. And honestly? It’s ok to do that every now and then. You’re only human and just like with the previous piece of advice, you can show your students that one bad day does not make you a bad teacher.
That being said, the other 95% of your days should include a classroom of mutual respect and safety. You’re forming the profession that is responsible for educating our youth. You need your students to feel like they can ask you anything and share things within the confines of the classroom. Let’s say you spent a month talking about basic reading strategies and someone is still confused. Would you rather they sit there, embarrassed to say they’re lost, or feel comfortable and safe asking for more help so that they’re fully prepared when they need to use those reading strategies?
This isn’t to say you let kids off the hook if they didn’t pull their weight or do the work. Simply treat them respectfully and let them know you are always there to help when they need it. Try to create the teacher you would want your kid to have.
3. Everyone is a Special Education Teacher
As teachers, we innately want to help everyone. Sadly, many people, even some teachers, have a skewed view of special education. More responsibility is being put on the general education teacher to reach every kid, and you need to prepare them for that. Whether someone is majoring in special education or not, they will be working with those students at some point and need to feel comfortable doing so.
Part of this means providing your students with a little tough love. You didn’t want to be a special education teacher? Too bad, everyone is to some degree. A child doesn’t need to have and to need extra assistance. But after the tough love, give some supportive advice. Help them understand that, IEP or not, every student learns differently. If they learn about the multiple learning styles, basic ways to differentiate work, and classroom management strategies, they’re already somewhat prepared. This doesn’t have to be a month out of your semester-long course. Incorporate it in as you go. Doing a lesson on where to find authentic artifacts for a history lesson? Talk about the different learning styles that benefit from this sort of activity.
4. Practice Makes Perfect
Sometimes, as teachers, we are rushed to cover everything we need to before the semester or year ends. Just remember, the more you are able to have your students practice, the better prepared they will be. They should practice writing lesson plans and be incorporating the learning standards. They should practice having that lesson meet the needs of all kinds of learners. They should practice teaching that lesson and listen to professional critiques.
Try your best to make time for the “practice.” It won’t always be possible, but it needs to occur frequently. You can always switch it up too. Perhaps sometimes they work in a group, while other times they work independently. Perhaps each group takes a different subject or topic so that you are covering more material while still allowing for practice time.
Above all, do the best you can. Cut yourself a little slack on the tough days. And remember that if you are modeling and expecting respect, everything else will fall into place because of the community you created.
For useful recommendations on how to break your classroom routines, check out our recent post See How Easily You can Learn Several Effective Teaching Methods