Top 7 Keys to Being a Successful Teacher
The most successful teachers share some common characteristics. Here are the top seven keys to being a successful teacher. Every teacher can benefit from focusing on these important qualities. Success in teaching, as in most areas of life, depends almost entirely on your attitude and your approach.
1. Sense of Humor
A sense of humor can help you become a successful teacher. Your sense of humor can relieve tense classroom situations before they become disruptions. A sense of humor will also make class more enjoyable for your learners and possibly make students look forward to attending and paying attention. Most importantly, a sense of humor will allow you to see the joy in life and make you a happier person as you progress through this sometimes stressful career. Humor will give you ability to detect a problem in class before it becomes an emergency.
Humor in the classroom is one of the most effective tools you have in your teaching arsenal. It can diffuse tense situations. It can make you appear more human to your learners. Even if your jokes fall flat, learners will still appreciate your attempt. With that said, sarcasm is an area of humor that can really create more problems. Many learners will not understand that your sarcastic remarks are only meant in jest. It is probably best not to use sarcasm at all, but if you do be very cautious.
2. A Positive Attitude
A positive attitude is a great asset in life. You will be thrown many curve balls in life and especially in the teaching profession. A positive attitude will help you cope with these in the best way. For example, you may find out the first day of school that you are teaching Algebra 2 instead of Algebra 1. This would not be an ideal situation, but a teacher with the right attitude would try to focus on getting through the first day without negatively impacting the students.
The first day of school! Students are ready, and despite their own denials, eager to learn. Most of them will approach the New Year with a desire to do better. How do we keep this eagerness alive? Teachers must create a safe, positive classroom environment where an expectation of achievement exists. Use the following tips to help begin your year positively.
• Be at your classroom door from day one. Students need to find you ready to greet them and excited about the New Year.
• Smile! If you are not happy to be in class, how can you expect your students to be happy?
• Do not complain to the students about how many of them are crammed into your classroom. Be welcoming to all, even if ten of them have to sit on the floor for the time being. Everything will be worked out eventually, and any student who is made to feel responsible for the administration’s poor planning may feel unwanted for the rest of the year.
• Have work ready for the first day. Have a warm up and agenda on the board. Students will quickly learn your expectations while getting the message that learning will take place everyday in class.
• Learn students’ names as quickly as possible. One technique is to pick out just a few and know them for the second day. Students will be surprised at how ‘with it’ you are.
• Make your classroom a safe place for all students. How do you do this? Create a prejudice-free zone. Some one uses ‘The Box’ in his classroom. He tells every student that they each have an invisible box right outside the door. As they walk into class, they are to leave any stereotypes and prejudices they hold in their box. He humorously says that they will be able to pick these nasty thoughts and feelings up again when they leave the class for the day.
However, while they are in the classroom, everyone will feel safe and accepted. To reinforce this idea, anytime a student uses a derogatory slang term or makes a bigoted remark, He tells them to leave it in ‘the box’. What is amazing is that this has really worked in his classes. Other students quickly become involved, and if they hear their classmates making inappropriate comments, they tell them to leave it in ‘the box’. One student even went so far as to bring in an actual shoebox for another student who could not control his stereotypical speech. Even though it was meant as a joke, the message was not lost. This example brings out one of the major benefits of this system: students become much more aware of what they are saying and how it affects other people.
The importance of setting a positive tone at the beginning of a new school year cannot be stressed enough. Despite their grumblings, students truly want to learn. How many times have you heard students speak disparagingly about classes where they sit around and do nothing all period long? Make your classroom a place of learning where your upbeat, positive nature is reflex.
3. High Expectations
An effective teacher must have high expectations. You should strive to raise the bar for your students. If you expect less effort you will receive less effort. You should work on an attitude that says that you know students can achieve to your level of expectations, thereby giving them a sense of confidence too. This is not to say that you should create unrealistic expectations. However, your expectations will be one of the key factors in helping students learn and achieve.
4. Creating an academic environment
Have you ever walked into a classroom expecting students to be prepared and begin learning and instead found them looking at you like you are an alien from another planet for even expecting their rapt attention? Unfortunately, low expectations have become the norm for both teachers and students. Many teachers do not want to fight against the expectations that students have because realigning their thinking is both time consuming and difficult. However, it can be done!
Students might come into your classroom with expectations of how you are going to act and what they will be expected to do. However, just because they harbor these beliefs does not mean that you have to conform to the mediocrity that has become much of teaching.
How do you do this you ask? By setting up an academic environment from the first day and ALWAYS keeping high expectations; What this means is that you as a teacher have to make a committed effort to be consistent, fair, and firm.
Finally, this brings up to the term firm. Discipline in your classroom should never be about raised voices and confrontations. It should be about consistent application of established rules. Further, learning will occur in a safe environment if the teacher establishes from the beginning that they will be fair but firm.
Teachers, we are representatives of our discipline. It is our responsibility to commit ourselves to teaching an academic course of study. It is a sad state that learners are surprised when teachers come in and actually expect their learners to learn – not just to regurgitate the facts that they read in a text. However, if we fail to create an academic environment, we leave learners with the implicit knowledge that school is optional and therefore learning is not that important or it is for the ‘brains’ of the school and not them.
One important teaching strategy is that you be consistent. In order to create a positive learning environment your learners should know what to expect from you each day and they will be more likely to succeed. You need to be consistent. This will create a safe learning environment for the learners and they will be more likely to succeed. It is amazing that learners can adapt to teachers throughout the day that range from strict to easy. However, they will dislike an environment in which the rules are constantly changing. When the rules change constantly, Learners will react poorly. You lose your credibility and learners have a tendency to tune out or act out.
Consistency means that you come into class on the first day of school and assume that learning begins that day. You let students know right away that they might play in other classrooms but not yours. And then you follow through! You do not come to class unprepared (you wouldn’t expect your students to!) You instead come with a lesson that begins at the beginning of class and ends at the end. (Believe it or not, this seems foreign to some students and teachers).
Further, you act the same every day. You might not feel the best or you might be having a bad day because of something going on at home or at work, but you do not change your demeanor or, more importantly, the way you handle discipline problems. If you are not consistent, you will lose all credibility with students and the atmosphere you are trying to create will quickly disintegrate.
Many people confuse fairness and consistency. A consistent teacher is the same person from day to day. A fair teacher treats students equally in the same situation. For example, learners complain of unfairness when teachers treat one gender or group of learners differently. It would be terribly unfair to go easier on the football players in a class than on the cheerleaders. Learners pick up on this so quickly, so be careful of being labeled unfair.
Fairness goes hand in hand with consistency. Do not treat kids differently. Sure, you will have personal likes and dislikes for different students, however, never let this bleed into your classroom. If you are unfair, you will quickly lose students who will not trust you. And trust is paramount for an effective academic classroom.
What this means is that you need to help the students understand that what you say is what you mean. And you must also help the students see that you believe in their abilities. Tell the students you know that they can learn what you are teaching, show them by your rapt attention, and then reinforce this by praising authentic achievements.
Many teachers have become cynical over time, believing that their students just can’t do it or that their lives get in the way. We are wired so that we can learn! With that said, obviously students need to have completed the prerequisites for a course. You can’t teach comprehension to someone who has just finished letter recognition. My point here, however, is that you need to examine your attitudes because they bleed through into class. Try not to say phrases like,” This is just too advanced,” or “We just won’t spend the time trying to learn this.” While these might sound innocuous, instead they are just off putting.
One of the tenets of teaching should be that everything is in a constant state of change. Interruptions and disruptions are the norm and very few days are ‘typical’. Therefore, a flexible attitude is important not only for your stress level but also for your learners who expect you to be in charge and take control of any situation.