Here are ten “resolutions” I wrote for myself to try to stick to for the coming year. Feel free to share yours below in the comments sections.
Ten New Year’s Resolutions for Teachers
1. Don’t be boring. If they looked bored, they are. Learning should be engaging.
2. Stop talking so much. You really aren’t that interesting. Students are far more interesting if you let them show you all that’s on their minds.
3. Be clear, and explain everything in multiple ways multiple times. Just because you know what “be specific” means as feedback on a piece of student writing doesn’t mean he knows what that means.
4. Show more models — show models of good, average, and below-average student assessments when assigning tasks. Ask students to assess these themselves in groups so they really understand how the criteria work before beginning the task themselves.
5. Be a model — do as much of the work alongside of them as you can. Writing a timed essay, even for an “expert” like you, is far more stressful than you expect. Remember how nervous you get while you complete tasks with them, anxious about whether you can write something worthy of their praise. Good ego and empathy checks.
6. Remember that problem kids have problems. Without fail, every difficult student you’ve ever had has always had a difficult background or was going through serious family problems. It’s amazing how much pain is in kids’ lives and how good they are at hiding it. A little understanding on your part during these cases is often more valuable than being a stickler over deadlines.
7. Challenge kids slightly beyond what you think they can achieve. Explain that you do this because you care about their education and because you respect them. Explain that you see them as intellectuals, even if your students are only nine. They value feeling your equal.
8. Give feedback every day, preferably in writing. Twenty-five minutes of class time spent reading every students’ journal entry from the previous night and giving feedback and practice grades on it (while students read each others’ and/or chat) is actually an excellent use of class time. You know daily who is where they should be and who isn’t. You no longer have to wait until the first big assessment for a big picture, and students are surprised you seem to care so much about their homework. They often improve more and more quickly because there is so much feedback.
9. Get feedback more often. Ask students to fill out anonymous Survey Monkey feedback surveys every month; film your class; invite a colleague in to watch you teach and assess it. Don’t be afraid of this; how can you give out feedback every week to students on their work and not be willing to receive it on yours?
10. Develop talent. Your dad always says everyone is one of two kinds of educators: a talent-developer or a slot-filler. Talent developers recognize that their primary job is to bring out the innate gifts in each child, even if those gifts have little to do with your subject area. Slot fillers are just that — filling slots, checking boxes, running down the list of content to deliver. In every way, every day, try to develop kids’ talents. Remember that you are who you are today in part because of the “talent developers” in your life who allowed you to bend the rules or propose something unorthodox because of a passion or interest of yours. Remember above all that your job is about developing talent, not quashing it.