Ten New Year’s Resolutions for Teachers

9 Dec

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.

Advertisements

4 Responses to “Ten New Year’s Resolutions for Teachers”

  1. Kelly O'Shea December 9, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

    These two seem to contradict each other:

    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 I know what “be specific” means as feedback on a piece of student writing doesn’t mean he knows what that means.

    Doing a lot of explaining sounds like doing a lot of talking. Or maybe I’m misunderstanding it?

    • alexisswiggins December 9, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

      Hi Kelly,

      I think they are saying different things and don’t contradict each other; #2 is really a reminder to myself that I can tend to like the sound of my own voice and go on and on about a particular topic (the life of Pablo Neruda, for example) when time would be better spent listening to students make meaning. #3 is a reminder to myself that in giving instructions, whether verbal or written, I need to be clear and explain myself several times and several ways. For example, in handing out a new assignment, I often write up clear, detailed instructions but many students skip over them each time. Instead of getting grumpy about this, I can just accept it and help confront it head on by explaining things different ways a few times. Make sense?

  2. Susanna Ferrara December 11, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

    For #8, how long is each journal, and how long is the total class session? I love the idea of giving students instant feedback on journals. I’d love to hear more about the logistics of how this works for you!

  3. mslyon December 15, 2012 at 11:36 am #

    Inspiring! I am focusing on #8 and #9 this year in all my classes, and hope to reNEW my focus in the New Year. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: