16 November 2014

Five things that make me a better teacher

Day 14 of Te@chThought's November Blogging Challenge

What are 5 things you are grateful to have learned in your teaching career?

Be flexible. I know that this is becoming increasingly difficult with all the demands that Common Core is placing on teachers but in my instance, being flexible has led to many averted meltdowns.  And I don't mean the students. I mean on my part.  As a control freak, it is extremely difficult at times to be flexible. Rigidity is comforting. However, this only works when the only one you are responsible for is yourself. Add 100+ teenagers to your responsibility and try being rigid. Disaster.  

Admit you don't know everything.  When I was younger, I just assumed that all my teachers knew everything. As an adolescent, I had my suspicions that they didn't and by the time I was a full-fledged teenager, of course I was the one who knew it all.  I will admit that among my first fears stepping into the classroom and in front of a group of students was that I didn't know everything. What if they asked me something and I didn't know it? What would happen if I admitted to being human and not omniscient? Would they still respect me? Would they still take me seriously as a so-called expert in my field? I have since learned that admitting I don't know something makes me human and more connected with my students. They get it that it's not possible for any one person to know everything. And when we don't, we have Google.

Trickery will get you everywhere! When students don't realize that they are learning is when they learn the most.  I often have them play a review game. Of course there are prizes which could be extra points or candy but either way most of them are so into it because they want to win, that they forget they are learning. Tell them they can bring a "cheat sheet" to a test. Just another tricky way to get them to study.  I've been using a free app called DuoLingo to help them boost their grade (this is the supposition) but because they have to complete X amount of lessons in order to get the extra points. I post extra credit on Twitter.  I call it trickery because it gets them to do things they wouldn't otherwise do or read or watch.  Call it what you will- it works.

Get to know your students. I mean really get to know them.  It helps you to plan lessons that will be of interest to them and relevant to their likes/dislikes.  It also helps you make connections that will foster mutual respect.  Ultimately, if they respect you, they won't want to disappoint you.  And they might feel comfortable coming to you if they need help of any kind.  If your classroom is filled with respect and the students feel safe, you've got a captive audience.

Be uninhibited while remaining appropriate.  I have done crazy things in my classroom. I have sung (almost a daily occurrence at this point), I have danced, I have acted, made up different voices, and have posed as Gru for my student paparazzi. I have worn funky hats or masks.  All of these things have shown my students not to have fear in front of the class but also that we can have fun while learning. Sometimes these sidesteps have created not only memories but have contributed to many lessons learned.  My only rule is that I cannot repeat anything because they are one-time performances and so they need to pay attention!

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