An effective teacher is someone who makes a positive impact on his or her students. These students will carry the strategies they learned through the rest of their education and into their adult lives. It then becomes a part of their lifelong learning strategies. From elementary school to college professors, an effective educator will leave a mark on students’ hearts and minds. You remember that special teacher, right? If you are in a circle of friends and ask, “Who was your favorite teacher?” I bet everyone can name a teacher and tell an inspiring story about him or her. Becoming an effective teacher goes hand in hand with passion for education and wanting to help young people be the best version of themselves. Sometimes it can take time and effort to become the teacher that you aspire to be. An effective teacher is one that makes the curriculum engaging and finds a way to make each student feel special! What are some ways you can be an effective teacher?
Plan Interactive Lessons
Keeping students engaged is a key element to effective teaching. One way to keep them engaged is through interactive lessons! Students will remember lessons where there are projects, hands-on activities, or a collaborative assignment. For example, play a jeopardy game together to review a social studies unit, use interactive notebooks for taking notes in writing, provide a variety go book reports in reading, or work in a collaborative group during a science experiment. These ideas will relay the material in a memorable way. When planning a lesson, think of ways to get your students moving about. Instead of practicing vocabulary in their seats, take your students outside for vocabulary basketball! Instead of discussing a lesson-related question in a whole group, put students in a small group and give them a question that requires multi-step solutions or higher-level thinking. Ask students to work as a group to figure it out. Students will remember being able to get out of their seats and having the freedom to learn and interact with the material. They will appreciate their learning experience and it will be more purposeful!
Make Your Classroom a Safe Space
Create a safe place where your students feel comfortable learning. This can mean providing lessons for different styles of learning. Learn how to accommodate students with learning disabilities, provide opportunities for auditory, visual, and tactile learners, or have differentiated materials for students on different learning levels. It also means being understanding and compassionate. Not every child learns the same way or has the same home life. A student may be going through a hardship or personal issue, which affects their learning. Students will thrive in an environment that is welcoming and open-minded. That doesn’t mean you will allow students to take advantage of your kindness. You need to establish respect in the classroom by setting expectations for academics and behavior. Teachers who are firm, yet understanding to their students, are perhaps the most effective. Students appreciate a teacher who makes them feel safe, special, and valued- it makes them feel eager to come to class. They want to work for you. Being open to talking to a student in need is a great way to make your classroom safe. Many students may just need a shoulder to cry on or someone to confide in if something is standing in the way of their learning. Sometimes you might be the only person who they can count on.
Be Willing to Grow
An important aspect of being an educator is the desire to keep learning. The more teachers learn about educational strategies and what has worked for veteran teachers, the more they can help their own students. Learning the basics is one thing- but to continue education and challenge yourself to expand the horizons of your own knowledge is another. This doesn’t have to mean earning a higher degree. It could simply be checking out new teaching resources, blogs, articles, videos, and professional development. For example, if you lack the confidence in teaching writing. That is ok! Find some rockin’ professional development for teaching writing. Taking that extra step can inspire new ideas and strategies to bring your own classroom and make you a more effective teacher.
It’s no secret that the classroom can be a bit hectic at times- that is why it’s extremely important to come prepared to class every day. To start the year, think about developing a positive classroom management system. It will help keep your students in check throughout the year. Then weekly preparations should be organizing and prepping for lessons, materials, communication, homework, etc. This may take some time out of each week, but it will make your life easier and your effectiveness as a teacher will skyrocket! Aside from keeping an organized classroom, being prepared for whatever type of day comes your way is also important. Some days will be easier than others, so it’s essential to have a strong mindset that you will conquer the good and the bad of any day of teaching.
Last but certainly not least… positive reinforcement! I talked about positive classroom management in the last section. Once that is established, then you can find ways to celebrate individual and group successes. For individual goals or accomplishments, some ideas are sticker charts, treasure chests, coupons, special seating, or a simple high five. That student will beam with excitement knowing that you recognized their hard work. For whole group accomplishments, there can be incentives such as a movie day, a class trip, kickball game, or it can be something simple too. You can have a quick celebratory chant, a 5-minute break, a 5-minute dance party, or a treat! Celebrating any success of your students will make an impact on their learning. This can be a planned incentive or a sporadic celebration, but any kind of excitement over the students’ hard work along their educational path will go a long way.
If you are a new teacher, start with one of two of these ideas and check out this blog post: 30+ Things I Wish I Knew My First Years of Teaching. Don’t be too hard on yourself and try to do everything at once. Balance is key and you can build on your effectiveness! I hope you found something to try in your class today!