Mistakes in Teaching

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Teaching is an interactive process that includes real people with real feelings and real strengths and weaknesses. Since the teacher is the leader of the classroom, it is imperative that he or she know what to do and what not to do. The reason is simple; the teacher has to get through the school year just as the students do. With the right attitude and planning, more can be accomplished and enjoyed.

Mistake #1

The top mistake that teachers make is starting off the year imbalanced. The balance referred to is that of teacher student relationship. This is a fine line that the successful teacher will learn to walk. There are two typical scenarios: either a teacher is completely disengaged from students, or the teacher befriends their students. Either extreme is a mistake.

The teacher should be friendly without implying friendship. Friendship is not necessary for learning. Teaching is not about being liked or being popular with students. A teacher who is friendly but holds firm to specific and clear expectations will be respected and listened to, and that is what is most important.

Mistake #2

Losing control of the classroom is an awful situation for teachers to find themselves in; but it happens in schools all around the world. In order for students to get the most benefit from their school day, the learning environment must be sacred and guarded. This responsibility falls directly and solely onto the teacher. Students will have bouts of misbehavior; but control of the classroom can be maintained by a well-prepared teacher.

First and foremost, a teacher should never yell at students; even to get their attention. Teachers who routinely yell at their students are quickly written off as unreasonable. Instead of allowing frustration to boil over, a teacher will do well to remember that silence is sometimes a more powerful way of dealing with classroom chaos.

Frustrations should also never come out in the way of humiliation or sarcasm. The older students get, the more this behavior is seen in teachers. Teen students can be a challenge, this is certain; but a teacher should remain calm and have specific plans in place to handle discipline issues before the school year gets rolling.

Mistake #3

Every classroom needs rules; but some teachers have a tendency to create rules that are basically unworkable. When rules are seen as unfair, or create problems, they are unworkable. Creating policies for a positive learning environment take time but the payoff is huge. How often are classes disrupted unnecessarily, and how often can this be tracked back to poor planning?

Classroom rules should be clear and concise. Too many rules will overload students and create animosity. A teacher should set aside time before the beginning of the school year to determine the type of learning environment desired for their classroom and create rules based on those desires. For instance, students can be directed to bring required materials to class every day unless otherwise instructed. This rule clearly communicates what is expected. There should also be a consequence for not coming to class prepared.

When making classroom rules, it is important to know your reasons for creating rules. They will be tested, and you will have to state your reasons – sometimes many times.

Teachers and Time Management

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Teachers are in the position where they have to fit a lot of tasks and materials into each day. They must stay on track while still ensuring that their students retain the information being taught. All in all, without proper time management, a teacher can quickly become overwhelmed by the stresses of the job. If you want to give your best to your occupation, do what it takes to become very effective with your time management. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Use the resources available to you. If there is something new you would like to introduce to your classroom; chances are you are not the first. Talk to other teachers you know and tell them about your ideas. This is a great way to find out if others have done the same thing. You may find that you come away with several tips on how to complete your project or plan successfully.

Making lists cannot be overstated when it comes to time management. Everyone in any occupation (and even at home) can benefit immensely from itemizing the tasks that they wish to accomplish each day. Some teachers recommend creating the habit of making 3 goals each day. When you have your list of tasks you need to accomplish, prioritize them; placing your biggest task first. By accomplishing your most dreaded goal first thing in the day, everything else looks easy!

Distractions are huge time stealers. This can be the parent who loves to chat or the colleague who loves to pick your brain. The best way to tackle these types of distractions is to listen for a few minutes (you never want to be rude) and then explain that you would love to hear more, but have work that you need to get back to. During times when you are pressed to accomplish a task, it may be necessary to lock your door and put out a nicely stated “do not disturb” sign.

Sometimes it is necessary to actually remove yourself from your normal environment in order to accomplish tasks in a shorter amount of time. This may mean that you head to the library on to grade papers so the football game blaring on the television does not keep you from focusing 100%. It may mean that you leave campus to grade papers if your attention is constantly diverted in this setting.

The times that are allotted for breaks should be used as such. Many teachers feel that they will get more done if they work through their lunch break. However, by taking time away from work and even away from campus (depending on how much time you are given) can renew your energy to such a degree that you accomplish more when you return.

Likewise, time at home should be for you and your family. If family responsibilities and chores are overwhelming, delegate them to those who share your home. Explain that their help is necessary and use the saved time to do something fun together. This helps you unwind and keeps you from forgetting to focus a little on yourself.

Teachers and Personalities – Part II

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In part one of this series, we covered personality types a teacher may encounter in the classroom.  Part one personalities are more prevalent in elementary classrooms.  The personality types in this article may be seen in lower grades; but could also be seen in middle and high school students.  The hope is always that kids and teachers have learned to handle the classroom setting by high school; but there are times when this age can be quite challenging.

The Arguer

The arguer is disruptive to any classroom of any age students.  This is the student who wants to have the last word and will do so at the expense of teaching time and the teacher’s sanity.  It can be easy to fall prey to the arguer by arguing back; but this only further escalates the problem and winds up leaving you feeling drained and helpless.  The arguer needs to be dealt with swiftly and effectively in order for you to effectively teach all the students..

Tips for the Arguer

  • Remain calm but assertive.  This type of student can be particularly challenging and the temptation to put them in their place can be great.  However, debating with this type of student will get you nowhere because they can be masters at taking you down all sorts of winding roads of debate.  Instead of getting caught up in secondary behaviors of muttering, slouching or smirking, stay on point with the primary behavior you find unacceptable.  If you have solutions for all of the excuses they come up with, they have no power.
  • An arguer cannot continue to be disruptive if they have no one to argue with.  Maintain your composure and refuse to be led down the path of infinite discussion, remind the student of classroom rules clearly and assertively.  If the student is being disruptive in their arguing, perhaps it would work to try and wait them out silently.  With so much focus on them, it may just be what they need to quiet down.
  • It is never acceptable for a student to take away what little time you have to teach.  If a student is consistently disruptive, a conference between you, the student and the parents may be necessary.  If this is a high school student, their counselor may also wish to be present.

The Long Face

The student who pouts can also be quite disruptive to the class; because their secondary behavior can far outlast the primary behavior you are attempting to squelch.  For instance, you have a student who tends to lag in getting to work.  They may wander through the classroom to borrow items they do not have.  When redirected back to their seat, this student will roll their eyes, sigh loudly, hunch over their desk, etc.  These secondary behaviors are a real problem and can outweigh the fact that they are getting out of their seat or speaking out of turn – whatever the primary behavior is.

Tips for the Long Face:

  • During class, stay on track with the primary behavior.  It is always essential that you address one thing at a time; otherwise you run the risk of losing a large portion of your valuable class time.
  • Just before the bell rings, state that the offending student needs to hang back.  With your classroom door open, ask the student if they are aware of their classroom behavior.  Often, this type of student does not realize they are displaying the sulking behaviors; or do so unintentionally.  Demonstrate for the student what their behavior is and explain that this sort of outburst not only makes them look bad; but is simply unacceptable in the classroom.

As with all things relating to the student-teacher relationship, developing rules and dealing with personality issues is something that makes the most impact when done at the beginning of the school year.  When a student gets away with poor behavior for even a few weeks, it is more difficult to address and regain control.  Take control of your class and the many personalities you will deal with right away and you’ll stand a good chance of staying in control all year long.

Teachers and Personalities – Part I

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For your job as a teacher to go as smoothly as possible; and to set up an environment where you and your students are at ease, it is quite helpful to learn about the personality types.  Personality profiling has been in existence for a long time.  Understanding personalities not only helps you know yourself better; but a grasp of the types of personalities also helps you to better relate to people you come across in your work and personal life.

When it comes to personalities for this article, we are going to cover the personalities you may encounter in the classroom.  Kids come in all shapes and sizes and it’s sure you have been host to at least one of these personality types.  In fact, many teachers will read these descriptions and nod in agreement that they have indeed seen these kids – often more than one at a time – come through their classroom.  In learning how to focus each personality and redirect their behaviors, you can gain more control over your classroom and feel good about how you have done it.

The Talker

You probably know the talker easier than any other personality type.  This is the student who turns to their neighbor the moment your back is turned to write something on the board.  It is as if there is no filter between their mind and their mouth.  While this personality can be bubbly and loving, the incessant talking during class can be extremely frustrating for both the teacher and students.

Tips for the Talker:

  • Maintain a cool while using a calm and even tone of voice while reminding the student of desired behavior.  Do not become angry, irritated or sarcastic and watch your body language; remaining calm.
  • Expect compliance.  Instead of asking a student to “please” stop their talking, remind them of your classroom rule with a statement such as “One at a time, thank you.”  Using “thank you” instead of “please” sends the message that you expect they will comply.
  • If you have a particular student that suffers from a runaway mouth, it is best to seat them up front where they are physically closer to you.  Seating them away from the rest of the class completely only calls attention to their poor habits. Keeping the student close to you makes them feel better about themselves and allows you to quickly redirect behavior if it becomes necessary.

The Demander

Another personality you see often in an elementary classroom is that of the student who is demanding of the teacher’s time and attentions.  This student is also known as the Clinger.  They are characterized by their need for “extra help” once you have given an assignments and made the directions quite clear.  This personality is tricky because you never want to leave a student stranded.  If they really need your help, you want to give it.  However, consistently attending to this student every time they demand extra help will only solidify their behavior and teach them that it is acceptable; which it isn’t.

Tips for the Demander:

  • Ignore unwanted behavior in favor of positive behaviors.  For instance, if you want your students to raise their hands for questions; then ignore the student who yells out in class and call on someone who has their hand raised.  There is usually no need to make any further statement about the negative behavior.  This will only embarrass the student who needs to change their behavior.  Students learn quickly what their teacher responds to.
  • If ignoring doesn’t work as quickly as you would like, then you can redirect in much the same way you redirect the talker; by stating the desired behavior with a “Thank You”.  For instance, if the demander is asking for help again, you can state “You must try one on your own first, thank you.”
  • When allowed, you can encourage students to ask one another for help or to look in their book for examples before asking you.

Planning On Being A Teacher? Part V-Epilogue

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As we get to the final section about the requirements that every teacher should have, it is worth noting that these articles were designed to show you all that you need to know about teaching. It is a noble profession and the nation’s future depends on teachers to guide its youth towards adulthood. These articles are just explaining that teaching is a job like no other and those who are interested in pursuing it as a career need to be aware of this. While the country needs educators, it needs good ones more desperately than ever. The requirements of a good teacher will come as second nature to those suited to teaching and those who genuinely love the vocation will believe that the rewards are more than enough.

Although it is up to a student’s parents to encourage them, you must also follow suit and this means setting high standards for both yourself and your class. The old saying ‘shoot for the stars and you may hit the moon’ is apt when describing a teacher/student relationship. If you are only telling your students to aim for a B minus average, then that is the highest they will get and are likely to do much worse. Tell all your class that they are capable of the highest marks. The high expectations you should set for yourself include trying to ensure that as many of your class get the best grades possible and not being satisfied unless they do.

In order for your class to succeed, they will need to be organized and you have to set a positive example by having attention to detail. In any case, you will be responsible for grading and assessing dozens of students so if you are a disorganized person in general, you will need to clean up your act in order to be more effective. This is not to say that being disorganized guarantees failure, as plenty of successful teachers have messy offices but it is the height of hypocrisy to lambast your students for being disorganized when you are no better yourself.

Finally, it is imperative that you have good time management skills. You only have a certain amount of time per class, day and week to teach the students what they need to know. The curriculum assumes that teachers will make the most of their time and procrastinators will be punished. The thing is, if you dawdle over certain topics, it will be your students who suffer the most. You have failed your students if you’re unable to cover all aspects of the course due to your poor time management.

Hopefully this information will be useful to anyone thinking of joining the teaching profession. As with any job, there are numerous pitfalls which have to be overcome and it can be the most challenging job of all. Nonetheless, there is also no other job which offers you greater rewards. When you see or hear that someone had graduated that you taught and has a positive impact on, there is no better feeling. Simply put, the best teachers can alter lives for the better.

Controlling Your Classroom III

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In this final installment of controlling your classroom, you will see more suggestions of dealing with bad behavior in your classroom. The previous editions covered everything from dictators to bullies but no amount of literature can prepare you for such events until they happen. Never be afraid to ask for advice from more experienced teachers too. In a well run school, the teachers should constantly be there for one another.

We all know the situation: one student interrupts either you or another student, and then someone else joins in. Before you know it, the whole class is in uproar and it is up to you to restore order. When such a situation occurs, stamp your authority on proceedings by telling everyone that they need to wait their turn before they speak. Tell them to come up with ideas to either build on. Don’t allow anyone to speak unless they put up their hand, it’s important to teach your class to be polite.

You may have to deal with pupils that try and disrupt the class through non-verbal means. They sit in their chair and use body language in a negative manner or they roll their eyes as you speak. The first thing you can do to counteract this is to completely ignore them, focusing on the student that is speaking. Alternatively, you could challenge their behavior and ask if they have something important they would like to share with the class. This places the emphasis on them and they will not enjoy having the spotlight shone firmly on them.

No list of disruptors would be complete without the student who continuously interrupts everyone else. Instant action is needed, so tell them to be silent until the speaker has concluded their statement. After classes, take them aside and explain how their behavior is unacceptable and it needs to stop. Advise them to take a sheet of paper and a pen and write down all their ideas. When the person has stopped speaking, they can then tell the class what it is they’re thinking. This is an excellent skill and one that will serve them well in later life.

Finally, we have the famous ‘teacher’s pet’. Even though there are sure to be students who you have taken a shine to because of their work ethic and high standards, you must be seen not to have favorites. You will also be helping them because ‘teacher’s pets’ are prime targets for bullies. Don’t make eye contact when they try and grab your attention in class and ensure that you never single them out for praise on a consistent basis.

So there we have it. It is a good starting point for those who have set out on the teaching road. Remember, the majority of students will respect you and the ones that try and act out can be dealt with comfortably by following  school guidelines, your own experiences and some of the tips given here..   Teaching comes with many challenges but also many, many rewards Those rewards are the difference you know you’ve made in the lives of the children you’ve given your best to and sent out to tackle the next subject or even the world!

Controlling Your Classroom II

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A good teacher has to be something of a diplomat. We looked at dealing with students who tried to undermine you, bullies and aggressive students. The bottom line is that you are charged with making sure your pupils learn and are ready for the world and if you cannot deal with unruly aspects then you are making things harder for you and your students.

You may occasionally encounter pupils that think they are in charge of the class. They will order the rest of the class around with no regard for your authority whatsoever. You need to nip this behavior in the bud before it gets out of hand. Tell them that they are a dictator and get them to rephrase this statement in the first person. Turn the class against them but involving them in the process. Soon, the dictator will realize that no one is following them and will fall back into line. This shows the class that you are the only one in charge.

It is a frustrating experience when you have a student that does not appear to be trying their best. Admittedly, there are many pupils who are not interested in a particular subject but they at least make an attempt to hide it and even to learn. Those who openly look bored and are no paying attention need to be dealt with. Otherwise, other students will see that the lazy pupil is getting away with doing nothing and follow suit. Ask them a question, then swiftly ask someone else to let them off for now. You don’t want to humiliate them after all. Take them aside after class and try to find out why they are not getting involved in class.

Then you have the moaner. These are students whose only participation in class involves them complaining either about the subject or the way it’s being taught. They never have anything positive to say and they try to bring down the collective mood of the classroom. To deal with this, ask that student to write down their complaints and promise that they will be looked at in the next class. Ask them to come up with a solution and paraphrase their negative comments. Depending on how you paraphrase, the sheer negativity of the statement may shock the student into mending their ways.

It is certainly a test of your patience when a student saunters into the class twenty minutes late. By this stage, you have got into something of a rhythm with your lesson and this tardy individual brings your momentum crashing to a halt. Although you would love to halt the entire class and show up the latecomer, it is best to wait until afterwards so that you can get straight back into teaching. Deal with the issue after class and always start your teaching at the correct time regardless of who is missing. It is their responsibility to be on time, not yours. If you really want to instill some punctuality into them, maybe you could make them the leader of the class so that they have to be there on time. Then again, you could always threaten to punish the whole group for this individual’s tardiness. Having their class against them will soon make them mend their ways.

Even though the vast majority of your class will make your job a pleasure, there will always be one or two that will try and disrupt the harmony of your class but a good teacher will find a way to deal with everything. The next article will look at further ways and means of dealing with troublesome students, so if you have no knowledge when it comes to sorting out tricky classroom situations, then you need to read on.

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