Becoming a Better Teacher: Seven Tips for Success
Teaching isn’t an easy job. Within every classroom, you’ll have students with numerous goals, needs, and learning styles. Even the best school teachers can take years to really hit their stride in the classroom. Here are a few tips for shortening your own learning curve—so you can better help your students learn.
Engage your students where they are
If you can relate to your students at their level, you have a much better chance of reaching them. Design curriculum lesson plans that use elements from their world to catch their attention—and draw them through the learning process. Start by meeting students where they are, and relating your lessons to their existing experience and knowledge, and you’re more likely to engage them from the start.
Listen to your students
The more face-to-face time you get with individual students, the better. The more you can get to know your students as individuals, the more you can make your lessons relevant to their own existing knowledge and personal experience. And if you can do that, you’re much more likely to interest them and engage them in the learning material.
Don’t skimp on the group work
Teamwork is a key element of success in every job. And before a student graduates to the workplace, he or she needs to know how to perform in a team—how to cooperate, built consensus for ideas, and solve conflicts to assure a successful outcome. Teamwork also allows students to break away from the student – teacher lecture paradigm and participate in some active problem-solving techniques with their fellow students. This promotes engagement—and helps students learn in a hands-on way.
Games are a sort of experiential learning that help students deeply internalize a lesson. If your students are having trouble understanding a particular unit or lesson plan objective, see if you can make it into a game. Providing hands-on learning opportunities that bring in fun and a little competition is sure to get students learning quickly—and picking up new skills that are sure to be valuable after graduation.
Slow things down
Lots of schools place emphasis on “accelerated” learning. But it’s hard to accelerate the learning process—every student needs time to reflect on ideas. As a teacher, if you can help your students carve out some time for reflection during or outside of class, you’ll encourage them to take the time to really think about and internalize what you’re teaching. Have students write down what they’ve learned in class at key points—and then go over these notes at the end to see how far they’ve come.
Meet every learning style
No classroom is full of students who all learn the same way. Some learn by reading and taking notes; others prefer hands-on lessons plans. Still others don’t really understand something until they’ve discussed it with peers or taught someone else. Build in lessons in each unit that cater to each learning style—listening, reading and writing, hands-on teaching, and visual learning styles. Understand that not everyone learns the same way, and you’ll be better able to reach all of the students in your class—not just the ones who learn the way you like to teach.
Set high expectations
Expect more from your students than they expect from themselves. Expect your students to rise to the challenge, and they will. Be encouraging and positive, but don’t let students get away with less than they’re capable of—and let them know you’re on to them when they slack off on homework. Some students aren’t used to being challenged—and if you’re a teacher they respect, they’ll challenge themselves to win your approval.
Teaching jobs are not easy, but it’s one of the most important ones you can take on. Choosing to help shape and educate young minds is no easy thing—but a good teacher can change a student’s entire life. Make time for reflection, incorporate games, teamwork and hands-on learning, and expect a lot from your students. Try to cater to everyone’s learning style, and make your lessons relatable to your students’ existing frames of reference. Experience is still the best teacher, but follow these tips, and you should be able to improve the classroom experience—both for yourselves and for your students.
Distance-Education.org: A Guide to Becoming a Teacher: Online Certifications to Get a Teaching Degree
NYTimes: Building a Better Teacher
TIME Magazine: How to Make Great Teachers
NewsObserver.com: Better Teacher, Better Students
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