As we mentally prepare ourselves to re-enter the classroom, it is a great time to self-assess. For most of us educators, we have been away from the in-person classroom for a while now. It’s always good to take a moment now and then to review, renew, and sharpen our techniques. Here’s a helpful checklist that I like to use. I hope that you find these tips helpful for taking inventory of your teaching tool kit.
Passion for your Content
Teachers may have different responses when asked why they entered the teaching profession, but I’m sure that most would agree that they have a passion for the content they teach. The passionate teacher is one that enjoys specific topics within their subject area or specific lessons within their grade level. The passionate teacher is a life-long learner and wants to instill that same desire to their students. The passionate teacher strives to get their students to be just as passionate about the subject they are learning. The more interest you express in your subject, the greater the chance you will exude creativity and increase the likelihood that your students will want to learn. Try to make the learning authentic by tying what you are doing into real-life applications whenever possible.
Engage the Student
Having a passion for what you do leads to being able to immerse oneself in the learning process which, in turn, leads to establishing a rapport with the class. The veteran teacher has undoubtedly developed their own methods for engaging the learners. But let’s not rest on our laurels. Times have changed. Standing in front of the room and lecturing in ‘chalk and talk’ will no longer hold. Children are used to a constant bombardment of data whether it is from a video game, social media, text messaging, or some other media. As teachers, we must adapt to this change by harnessing these avenues of information and using them to our advantage. Create a 3-D environment in a game or use Google Tour Builder to take a virtual class trip. Have your students blog about an historical topic on a social media platform or even hold a debate with classmates (or even another school) via text messaging.
Expert in your Subject
The timeless teacher is an expert in their subject area. The timeless teacher enjoys learning new things and most likely holds an advanced degree in their subject area. Being an expert helps gain respect from the students. Expertise means being able to identify struggling students and utilize alternate teaching methods to reach them. The expert teachers does not need to cling to the textbook but, rather, has confidence in themselves and uses alternate resources and even encourages students to seek knowledge elsewhere. Being an expert in the subject means that you never stop learning. Continue to stay current, attend professional development workshops, research, and communicate with cohorts in the field.
The timeless teacher has the discipline of self-reflection. Being able to critique one’s own work and performance is a skill developed over time. The timeless teacher is capable of evaluating his or her own performance without the input of an outside observer or administrator. Being able to assess what went well and identify what needs improvement leads to being able to build upon one’s strengths and correct errors. Timeless teaching requires asking oneself “How can I do better?” “How can I better engage the students?” “How can I overcome student apathy?” “Who were my most effective teachers and why?”
The timeless teacher never stops changing. It’s natural to get into a comfortable mode of teaching the same style, especially if we have been doing that style for a long time (and it works). But the timeless teacher knows that they must never get complacent. There will be always be new students whose energies will need to be harnessed. Timeless teachers must be able to adapt and embrace emerging technologies. Programs and applications we were using just a few years ago have been upgraded and/or replaced by newer, better ones. We must also admit what we do not know. The timeless teacher must be comfortable enough with his or her own ego to know that mastery cannot ever be truly achieved because there is always something new to learn – and that is a good thing.
Whenever possible, try to incorporate a kinesthetic element into your lessons. The timeless teacher knows that a hands-on project goes far in not only making the lesson interesting, but also helps the learner to develop a more concrete memory of what they are learning. Building, designing, and drawing helps solidify knowledge. Set up learning stations in your classroom. Have a different activity at each station and allow student-learning groups to circulate the room and spend time at each station. Children will learn how to contribute to the group and be part of a team.
Sage on the Stage or Guide on the Side?
Some teachers are in their comfort zone when they are standing in front of the classroom at the board. But the timeless teacher has learned to be just as comfortable relinquishing some of that control and allowing students to work with partners or in small groups. Giving students some independent work time allows them to digest new knowledge and gives them a chance to show what they know. This also creates time for the timeless teacher to do some informal assessing. Software applications allow teachers to quickly and efficiently monitor student progress and give instantaneous feedback to the class.
The timeless teacher has learned the importance of communication. He/She has learned how to talk to their students and find out about their hobbies and interests. Take those interests, and whenever possible, build them into a lesson. You might be surprised at some of the lesson ideas you gain simply by holding a class discussion. In addition, students will gain the feeling that they are part of the process. This establishes a ‘buy-in’ on their part and increases the likelihood of class participation. Communication does not end with the students. The timeless teacher communicates with colleagues as well. Share ideas, projects, and lessons. Talk about what works and what does not. Remember, one of the reasons we chose this profession is because we enjoy helping others. Fellow teachers will feel good about themselves when they help you and vice versa.
Employ Student Leaders
The timeless teacher is capable of assessing the class to identify the opinion leaders. Other students look up to those students. Timeless teachers know how you use these opinion leaders to raise the engagement level of the whole class. Put these opinion leaders in charge of smaller peer learning groups. Sometimes students can learn better from their classmates, especially if things are explained from a student’s point of view. As a bonus, you will likely improve the self-image of these leaders. Raise the bar. Intensify academic rigor. Make it cool to be a learner again.
Showcase your Students
Timeless teachers know the importance of having their students share the spotlight. Give your students a chance to show off what they know. Hold individual and group presentations. Encourage your school administration to hold family learning nights in which each discipline is featured with a project. This not only gives your students a chance to shine but also gives the timeless teacher a forum to talk about all the great things you are doing with your group and how important it is to be an academic.
Remember, these tips are just guidelines to being a timeless teacher. You may have additional tips to add to this article. Please feel free to share and comment. Have a great school year!