Keep your brain active

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During my many years as a student and then later as a teacher, I’ve witnessed firsthand many different teaching styles, personalities, and attitudes. Many combinations work, and many don’t. For a first year teacher starting out, it can be very difficult to know what will work best. If I were asked by a new teacher, “How can I be a good teacher?”, I would tell them:
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF PHYSICALLY, EMOTIONALLY, AND SOCIALLY
Get plenty of sleep, eat right, and exercise. If you don’t feel good, you won’t have the needed energy to last all day at school or the interest in doing your job well. Vent your frustrations appropriately, and seek emotional support when you first feel you need it. Don’t forget that you have a life outside of the classroom – if you do, you will eventually resent your students and hate your job.
BE A TEAM PLAYER
Don’t work in isolation. Be a team player with other teachers and staff, and develop healthy relationships with them. You must be able to “play well with others”. Not only will you have the emotional and academic support that you need to succeed as a teacher, but your students will have a good role model.
RESPECT YOUR STUDENTS
Treat your students as you would like to be treated. Make an effort to really know them. See each student as an individual, rather than always focus on the group. Draw a clear line, though, between being a pal and being the teacher. You’ll have more respect and less disciplinary problems.
KEEP A POSITIVE ATTITUDE
Don’t take things too personally. Know that kids can and will be mean. Be able to “go with the flow”. Know that the only constant is change. If you do take things too personally and can’t go with the flow, you won’t be an effective teacher. Your self-esteem will plummet. You will eventually become cynical, critical, and nasty and will take it out on the kids and other teachers. You will eventually hate your job.
BE PREPARED
Always be prepared. If you’re not, your students will know it, and take advantage of it. Plan your lessons ahead of time. Follow through on what you have promised you will do. Be sure to grade their papers promptly. Always be at least one step ahead of your students.
MAKE LEARNING FUN
Make learning enjoyable and fun. Your goal is not just to teach your students the necessary knowledge, but to turn them on to learning. Be able to communicate the information that they need to know in a way that they understand. Relate the subject matter to real life, so that they know why they need to learn it. Be careful, though, not to work harder than your students to get them to learn what they need to learn, or you will burn out. Instead, teach yourself how to turn the students on to learning so that they make the necessary effort. Their learning should be ultimately intrinsically driven, not extrinsic.
BE HONEST
Be honest to yourself, your peers, and your students. Admit when you don’t know and when you are or were wrong. Ask for help when you need help. Examine yourself, and be willing to make changes where needed.
BE OPEN-MINDED
Always look at the big picture, be willing to entertain new ideas, be willing to think outside the box, and without judgement. It’s a big world out there with a vast number of people and temperaments and experiences. There is always much to learn from others.
BE A LIFELONG LEARNER
Keep learning, especially about your area of expertise. Know your subject matter inside and out. Learn about other things that interest you, as well. Keep your brain active.
Donita Weddle

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