August 25, 2008

Essentials of Teaching

Having been out of school for about a month, I’ve had some time to finally digest the massive amount of information that I’ve learned. Teaching can be simplified into a few basic concepts. Here are the pieces of advice that I think are most important to give to a new teacher or someone considering entering the profession.

Respect and courtesy earn courtesy and respect.
If you follow this rule, you’re 90% there already. Students really appreciate this. It means treating them with dignity and not talking down to them. When you treat students with respect and courtesy, they will act the same way.

Be prepared!
You need to know your content, and you need to know it well. Your job is to teach, and you won’t be effective unless you have a strong grasp of the subject you’re teaching. This does not mean staying a week ahead of the class in the textbook; it means having a strong foundation before you even begin planning the curriculum.

You also need to know what you’re doing every day. A well-planned lesson is the best prevention for behavior and discipline problems. Being unprepared is extremely unprofessional. Proper prior planning prevents poor performance.

Maintain high expectations and unconditional positive regard for each student.
If you let thoughts like, “she’ll never get this” or “he just doesn’t care” enter your mind, your actions will follow your beliefs, and you will fail as a teacher. It’s true that not all students have the same ability, and it would be wrong to assume that they do. Maintaining high expectations is simply a belief that each student is capable of great accomplishments. Your job is to show them the way.

You will have students that are challenging. They will test you and, at times, annoy you. Teachers need to look through this behavior and see each student as a human being. Start each day with a clean slate. If a student made you angry yesterday, you should be delighted to see him today!

Teach kids first and content second.
Delivering content is only about 20% of a teacher’s job. When I look through my journal entries, I notice that I didn’t write about my lecturing style or teaching methods or assessments. I wrote about the other 80% of what happens in a classroom. Teenagers are really fun people to work with. But, if you don’t like kids, you won’t like teaching.
This article was originally written shortly after my student teaching experience.

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