Teaching is not the same today as it was even 10 years ago, much less four decades ago, which is when many of today's retiring teachers first entered the classroom as an instructor.
In the midst of changing educational practices, cultural norms, and ever increasing knowledge in subject areas, teachers need to stay on top of their methods and knowledge. There are plenty of methods to turn to for keeping teaching fresh.
How To Stay Fresh As a Teacher
Take Continuing Education Classes
Teachers can be students, too, and one of the best ways to stay fresh is to continue your education. Many teachers are required to earn a specific number of continuing education credits each year, but it's important to pick the right classes to take. Classes should expand the teacher's tool set rather than reviewing existing skills. Both online and traditional colleges offer continuing education diplomas and certificates. These programs take around one year complete, depending on the number of credit hours. A great way to find the best programs is asking colleagues what they have taken.
Revamp Lesson Plans
Teaching the exact same lessons every year can get stale, so take the time to revamp lesson plans on a regular basis. This is especially important for teachers who only teach one or two courses with multiple sections each day. After knowing the material so well and teaching it so many times, it's easy to get stuck in a rut. One useful exercise is to start from scratch on a lesson that has seemed to flop lately and rethink the best way to teach the material. Or, connect with a fellow teacher who may teach at a different school, and compare and improve on your current lesson plans!
Add Technology to Courses
Stanford professor noted recently is that technology is one of the best ways to connect with students these days. Many teachers have already made the switch from overhead projectors and blackboards to slideshow presentations, and laser pointers, but there's always more to add. Smart Boards help teachers create interactive lectures that students can access from their own computers later, and many teachers are finding ways to let students use their smartphones to vote on polls or collaborate on projects. Gamifying your lesson plan can also engage tech-driven students of modern-day as well.
Work Toward an Advanced Degree
Although most elementary, middle, and high school teachers don't need to hold a master's degree, many teachers still choose to work toward a higher degree, often a Master or Doctorate of Education. Doing so gives the teacher a chance to learn more about educational methods and specific subjects stay on top of things in the classroom. As The Weekly Herald points out, advanced degrees in education are particularly helpful to stay up-to-date with the latest teaching methods for kids growing up today. Plus, many school districts give a raise to teachers who hold an advanced degree.
Colleagues are sometimes the best places to get ideas, particularly if they work at the same school or type of school. Picking someone else's brain can provide tons of ideas on how to incorporate new techniques to connect with the students and help them learn more effectively. It can also help refresh educators who are feeling burned out or discouraged, as teacher Jim Burke explained in his ASCD article.
Most teachers rely on all of these methods of continued education at some point during their career, but to find the one that's most important now, teachers should ask where they feel like they're falling behind.
Some teachers have lost passion for the subject, others feel like they can't connect with kids, and more feel like they’ve lost particular skills and expertise. Being selective in what methods used helps us take advantage of limited time.
Remember, you live and breathe education, so why not professionally advance yourself?
This is a guest post by Allie Gray Freeland
Allie Gray Freeland is editor-in-chief of www.CollegeOnline.org, a guide to degrees online and college life. Allie earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota and specializes in higher education.
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I agree with everything you mentioned. Especially the tip about technology. I can only speak for myself, but discovering new technologies ignites new ideas and sparks creative ways I can present lessons and assess how the students learned. New technologies can really turn the whole idea of the "same old" lessons on it's head.
Another thing I do is move around to different content areas every few years to get a different scene every now and then.
I'm confused about tip #3; how are slideshows and pointers more "techie" than video projectors? I use projectors pretty often to show short TED clips, for Flash games like Jeopardy, and sometimes just to project text for an assignment. Switching to pointers seems like a step backwards?
Thank you for the tips. Most ESL teachers follow them. I would also focus on self-reflection and self-assessment, our ability to exercise introspection and demonstarte the willingness to look into what we are doing and how we are doing this as teachers. Self-reflection can also help reconsider our goals and discover new potentials and to better outline our daily work and activities.
I couldnt agree more on these tips. Be on your toes as my English techer used to tell me. Being up to date on the latest news, methods and approaches is the best we can do to keep ourselves always fresh and motivated.
Tip 6, I think, is the most effective and useful because working with people is very important nowadays, it helps to be self-critical and gives a lot of motivation. Thank you a lot for your materials and opportunity to connect the bank of ideas!
Thanks for the article. I'd just say that your tip 3 can be bum sometimes, I mean hardly ever students correspond to technology the way you expect. We're living in a hyper connected world which paradoxically demands more carreer commitment from students leaving them without time to engage in such activities. Another thing is that this super massive amount of technology (www, apps, social networtks, etc) can make students more distracted and even more entertained leaving no room for ongoing extra class work, even if we're using top notch technology.
As teachers, we abosolutely have to bring ourselves up-to-date with the latest methods/approches and tools. There are many new things that we can add to classes in order to enhance them. I work at an International school here in Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil and I think its really important to come up with something new and creative, especially when you are teaching other subjects such as History and Geography. Sometimes we, teachers, need help to make our classes innovative and dynamic, so that students can enjoy learning. You, BUSYTEACHERS TEAM, have devoted your time and effort to privide us with free materials. Thanks very much, indeed!
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