Let’s face it.
None of us become a teacher because we have nothing better to do. We become teachers because we love working with students, because we get a thrill from seeing people learn and succeed, because we love language and we want to share that language with others, and many other noble reasons. With these great ideals in place from the start, how is it then that we fail to live up to our own potential as educators? It’s because we don’t use the resources at our disposal to the fullest extent. Here are four simple ways, four little tips that can help you become the teacher you always wanted to become. They are no great strategies, nothing secret. They are four things you can do every day to make sure you are on your way to becoming the best teacher you can be.
4 Tips for Harnessing Your True Teacher Potential
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Teachers are the ones with all the answers, right? Wrong. My first year teaching, it seemed like I got questions every day that I couldn’t answer. Why do we use this inflection on that type of sentence? Why do speakers use reductions? And how can they understand each other when they do? What exactly does this verb tense mean? The questions went on and on. Thankfully, I can answer them now, but it’s only because I turned to others who knew the answers. My colleagues. My fellow teachers were my best resource my first year teaching. When I felt stupid because I couldn’t answer a simple grammar question, the staff at my school stepped up and helped me understand so I could then help my students understand. Sometimes as teachers we are afraid to admit when we don’t know the answer – to our students as well as ourselves. But one of the best ways to reach our full potential in the classroom is to admit it when we don’t know something. Then look for someone who does know it and can explain it to us. Not only will we be more knowledgeable, we will have an understanding of where our students are coming from when they can’t answer one of our questions.
Learn Your Own Learning/Teaching Style
As teachers, we talk a lot about our students learning styles, but how much do we think about our own learning styles? It’s important to know where we are coming from because the way that we learn will naturally be our default style of teaching. This means that visual learners will tend to teach using visual methods, aural learners will use aural teaching methods, and so on. This is great for students who have the same learning style as their teachers, but it can present a challenge for students who have different learning styles than their teachers. When you know your own learning style as a student, you can be more aware of how many teaching activities you are planning that cater to that style when you teach. Teachers should be careful to keep a well-balanced set of instructional methods that meet all the learning styles in their classroom and not fall into the trap of overteaching in their own learning style.
Don’t Underestimate the Value of Self-evaluation
If you are lucky enough to teach the same classes each year or if you plan on teaching your current class again sometime in the future, don’t underestimate the benefits that come from self-evaluation. I’ll be honest. I always hated when school administrators came into my class to evaluate my teaching and class management. They made me nervous, and I swear my teaching was worst on those days. If you feel that way too, you might shy away from the idea of evaluating yourself. True you won’t have an audience in the back of the classroom telling you what you did right and wrong, but sometimes it’s still intimidating to ask yourself how something really went and answer that question honestly. What was right? What was less than right? What do I need to change? (Oh how we all love change!) But those questions are exactly what you should be asking yourself after each lesson. What was good? What was bad? What needs improvement? Five minutes is all it takes to guarantee a better experience for both you and your students the next time you go through material or do a similar lesson. You don’t have to make your self-evaluation complicated. Jot a few lines on three different sticky notes and stick it to your lesson plans for that activity. That way when you pull out your lesson plans again, you already know what you need to tweak to make it even better next time.
Set Ambitious but Realistic Goals
If you really want to improve yourself as a teacher, you have to have a goal, an ideal, a destination in mind. Think about role models in the teaching field that you’d like to emulate. Think of qualities you’d like to possess as a teacher. Think about the best teacher you ever had and what made them the best. Make a list of all you want to be and wish you could be in the classroom. Now you’ve done the hard part. The easy part is getting there. Yes, I said that right. You’ve already done the toughest part – deciding on who you will become as a teacher. Now that you have that in mind, think of one tiny step you can take toward that goal, one little thing you can add to your daily routine that will help you get there. You might read five to twenty minutes in a book that teaches you a new method or how to relate to your students. You might choose to add one new activity into your repertoire every week or every month. You might join a chatroom where knowledgeable experts give advice you want to hear. Whatever it is, choose a tiny step and then do it. And then do it again. The key to reaching your goal as a teacher is to identify where you want to go and then taking tiny, consistent steps over a long period of time. If you do, you will reach your destination. It won’t happen overnight or even over the course of a year (depending on how lofty your goals are). But you will reach it. Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? When you make positive choices consistently over time, even when they seem tiny, they pay off big in the long run. But don’t overwhelm yourself by setting too lofty goals too quickly. Reaching your true teacher potential takes time and consistent effort. If you can do that, you will make it where you want to go.
These are four simple things you can do every day that really will make a difference in your teaching life.
Why not try them out and see just how far you can go at being the best teacher you can be?