Teachers have an innate desire to learn and grow. We are always poking around on the internet for new ideas to use in our teaching. Pinterest has become some teachers closest friend. But, how do you really become a better a teacher? In most other professions employees regularly see other’s work, have their work reviewed and collaborate in teams with others in their field. However, teachers are relatively isolated. Except for the one or two times your principal observes you for your formal review, teachers usually are alone with their students. We really don’t know much about the specifics of what teaching looks like in the classrooms surrounding ours. We might exchange lesson ideas with coworkers or see their discipline as their class walks down the hallway, but we never really have the opportunity to observe or be observed in HOW we teach.
Therefore, its up to us to create an opportunity so we can grow. I’ve included a few ways I have found helpful.
1.Create open dialogue with other teachers. Don’t use your lunch hour or planning period just to complain about students, use it to share solutions. Ask other teachers to give feedback on your lesson plans or the way you handled a certain situation in your class.
2.Gather feedback from students. Ask your students what they thought about a lesson, pay attention to their engagement in class, their scores on tests and homework. If a large part of the class isn’t doing well or isn’t engaged then chances are you need to change something you are doing.
3.Ask veteran teachers if you can observe their classroom on your off period. This might introduce you to new teaching methods or management tricks.
4.Be intentional about personal reflection. Reflect regularly (at least weekly) about how you’re doing. Keep notes about what is going well and what isn’t. Set only one or two goals for yourself to focus on each quarter. You can’t improve in every area all at once. Keeping a reflection journal can be as easy as grabbing a blank notebook from the store. If you want something a little more step by step, you can find ready-made reflection journals online.
5.Develop yourself as a person not just a teacher. You can only give what is inside of you. Teachers don’t always realize that, just like our students, we have hurts, wounds, experiences, and biases that affect our behavior. If you have low self-esteem you’ll reflect that out. You might not have confidence in your teaching and let students run the show or you might over compensate, creating a hard, authoritative demeanor in an effort to demand respect. If you were bullied as a child you might treat students with similar characteristics as the one who bullied you differently without even realizing it. You might have developed certain beliefs about boys, girls or different races that you carry with you even in your class. Race: The Power of an Illusion is a PBS series produced by California Newsreel that can help you begin assessing your own view of race. By being honest with your own biases, shortcomings and weaknesses you can bring healing to your own life and ultimately become a better teacher.
Teaching takes a lot of energy. However, there are ways of doing it that are more effective, less time consuming and MORE FUN! So start growing today.