How to Be a Better Teacher
Teaching is one of the most selfless career paths a person can follow. Whether you're just starting or a veteran of 20 years, it's natural to want to improve. Even the best teachers feel there is always something more they could do for their students. That's part of what makes them great teachers.
To help you embody this growth mindset in your own career, here are some helpful tips on how to become a better teacher. Doing so benefits both you and your students.
Be a Lifelong Learner
If you're reading this article, you're already on the right track to improving. One of the most critical factors for being a successful teacher is acknowledging you have room to grow and possessing the desire to learn. The world is constantly changing. The skills students need to learn are evolving to keep up with technology, and new research is reshaping what we know about the best practices of teaching.
One way to continue your education is to go back to school. Many school districts offer benefits to teachers who earn their master's degree, such as salary increases, continuing education bonuses, discounted tuition at partnered universities or tuition reimbursement. If you decide to go back to college for a master's degree or special certification, choose a focus area that interests you. Some examples include Autism Spectrum Disorder, Curriculum and Instruction and Instructional Technology.
Returning to university isn't for everyone. Perhaps you already have an advanced degree or want more flexibility in your study topics instead of focusing on one particular area. There are plenty of other ways to become a lifelong learner and sharpen your teaching skills. Tons of resources are available to teachers online and offline, including books, articles, seminars and conferences.
Many school districts and state governments offer professional development that is free or highly affordable. If you're not sure where to start, consider exploring free webinars from the U.S. Library of Congress and other organizations.
Learn From Student Successes and Failures
One of the best ways to learn is from experience. Of course, it's possible to teach for years without actually becoming a better teacher. The key to improving with practice is deliberately learning from your experiences through reflective practice. Take some time at the end of every lesson or day to reflect on your teaching — it doesn't have to take long.
Try starting with a few minutes each day. Think about what went well and what you wish would have gone better. Learning from your failures is just as important as learning from your successes. Identify behaviors you'd like to reinforce and things you'd like to try differently, and be sure to write your reflections down whenever you can. Recording your thoughts will increase your commitment to implementing new ideas into your practice and allow you to see your growth over time.
As you become more experienced, you'll find yourself reflecting on your teaching during your lessons. Being aware of the effectiveness of your teaching within the moment allows you to monitor student comprehension and better adjust to meet student needs. Every teacher has at least one lesson that none of their students understood after the initial delivery. The mark of a great teacher is how they adapt their lesson plan to help their students succeed in the end.
Responsiveness and flexibility are two of the most essential skills for teachers, and daily reflection is an excellent way to hone those abilities.
Ask for Help
One potential roadblock to becoming a better teacher is a fear of feedback. Sometimes an outside perspective is the best way to find growth opportunities. The instructional benefits of peer teaching evaluation are well documented. It's important to keep in mind that these evaluations aren't just summative. Observations can be about much more than an annual evaluation of your teaching ability.
Multiple formative assessments throughout the year are a powerful tool for professional development through collaborative reflection and innovation. While formal peer observation programs are becoming standard practice for some schools, you don't need to wait for your administrator to set one up for you. Invite another teacher you trust and respect to observe you during their prep period. They'll likely be happy to help.
Alternatively, ask other teachers if you can come into their classrooms to observe them. Takes notes on what works well for them that you'd like to integrate into your own teaching.
Even if you can't observe another teacher or have them observe you, you can still turn to your peers for help. No matter what kinds of challenges you're experiencing in the classroom, at least one of your peers has likely encountered a similar situation. Ask your co-workers about what struggles they've faced and what strategies worked for them.
Remember, don't just focus on the negative. If you have an idea for a lesson or teaching strategy you are excited to try, share it with your colleagues. They can help you refine it further, or they can try it in their classroom and build upon your ideas. Creating a culture of professional collaboration will help you and your fellow teachers advance your skills.
Ask for Student Feedback
Peers and supervisors aren't the only sources of valuable feedback. They might not be experts of pedagogy, but in some ways, your students are the most knowledgeable people concerning your teaching. Being in your classroom every day gives them a more complete picture than an outside observer who comes in only a handful of times a year. Your learners are also experts on what does and doesn't work for them as individuals.
Receiving student feedback can be formal or casual and on an individual or group level. If assigning every student a long written survey feels nerve-wracking, start small by asking them one or two questions at the end of a lesson. Ask them what questions they still have, what their favorite part of a lesson was or what explanation of a topic was the most helpful.
Reflect on What Kind of Teacher You Want to Be
Before you can reach any goal, you need to identify the direction you want to head in. Stop and think about the kind of teacher you want to be. Make a list of traits and behaviors of an ideal instructor — these are what you'll want to emulate. You'll likely find many of the things on your list are strengths you already have. Now is a great time to acknowledge what you already do well and want to reinforce.
While this step can be more difficult, you should create a list of negative traits and behaviors you want to avoid. When you look at this list, you might find you have some characteristics you'd like to change. While seeing your faults can be uncomfortable, it's part of the growth process and nothing to be ashamed of.
Even the best teachers have things they'd like to change about their teaching. The important part is acknowledging the difference between where you are and where you want to be so you can take steps to improve.
Prepare Your Students for Success With Success by Design
Organization and planning are two of the most important skills for students to learn. Regardless of what subjects you teach, you can help your students develop these skills. One of the best ways for young scholars to learn organizational skills is to maintain a school planner. Success by Design specializes in high quality, purposefully designed planners to help pupils organize, track and achieve their goals.
- SBD, Inc.