Four years ago, I decided to make one of the hardest professional decisions I have ever made. After having my third child, I decided to take some time off of teaching, the profession I adore, to focus on my family. With a seven-year-old, four-year-old, and newborn, I didn’t think I could successfully balance and juggle it ALL.
While I truly adored being home with my family, I missed my work as a teacher. This year I headed back to the classroom and while it has been a juggle, it has been an INCREDIBLE year.
Yes, my life is crazy busy! Yes, I drink too much coffee and wake up at crazy hours of the morning to work out with my other busy teacher-mom friends. But when all is said and done, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am grateful to be back in the classroom and hopeful for what my teaching future holds.
This school year marked year #16 for me. I am finding it very hard to believe that there are only 6 short weeks left, and I am dreading saying good-bye to this AWESOME group of students. While I am the teacher, every year I learn more and more from my STUDENTS. As I reflect back on this year, I want to share 16 practices that are essential. Here are my tried and true teaching strategies I have learned after 16 years of teaching experience….
- Have F-U-N! Dress-up on school spirit days, play the games students are playing at recess, and turn classroom learning into games. Your students will not remember EVERYTHING you taught them, but they will 1000% remember THAT lesson you taught that made learning come to life.
- Get to KNOW your students right away. When we learn about students’ interests, we can apply and connect those interests to make classroom learning more engaging and purposeful.
- Smiles and kind greetings set the tone for a good day! It is always a good day to have a good day!
- Listen! As teachers we need to listen more than we speak. In our profession that can be challenging because we talk A LOT! Hear what your students share when they don’t know you are listening. Those insights can speak volumes.
- Be Flexible. Assemblies pop up, snow days occur, vomit happens. While it is always essential to have a plan for the day/week/month/year, those best laid plans can change in a second. Be prepared to be flexible and change your plans at a moment’s notice.
- Everyday is a fresh start for my students and ME! No matter what took place the day before, today is a new day to move forward and move on. Lessons don’t always go as planned and students don’t always behave as expected. Tomorrow is a new day to refresh and try again.
- LOOK for the GOOD! A wise principal once said, “You will always find what you are looking for. If you are looking for the good, you will find it. If you are looking for the not-so-good, you will find it.” Don’t turn a blind eye, but look to find the goodness in what your students bring to the classroom each day.
- Student voice is essential. When I give students the opportunity to make choices about their learning, their work is that much more thorough and thoughtful. Consider giving students a choice when planning and implementing literature circles and writing topics.
- Structure and organization is critical. Students thrive when they know what to expect. A surprise treat is welcome, a surprise test or schedule overhaul is not. Establish a routine, post a daily agenda, set classroom expectations, and implement consistent procedures so that students know what to expect each day.
- Parents send their very best kids to school each day. Share the good with them.
- State testing is a small portion of the school year. State testing is ONE component of the work we do as teachers. It is stressful, overwhelming, and ever-changing. It is essential that we prepare our students so that they are confident and comfortable in their abilities as test-takers.
- Curriculum calendars are your friend. No matter what you teach, it is essential to have a plan. A curriculum calendar helps to stay accountable for all that students are expected to learn during the course of the school year. Different concepts are taught and grasped differently, but having a pacing guide in place is ideal to stay on-track with student learning.
- Professional relationships are imperative. The best way to have great colleagues is to be a great colleague. Be collaborative, be helpful, be complimentary, and be optimistic. Hard days are made easier with the help of great teammates.
- Play music. Favorite (edited) songs, quiet working music, and Go Noodle brain break dance songs are staples in my classroom.
- Take pictures. Capture student smiles and learning and share those moments. I love to make photo slideshows to share along with weekly newsletters, so parents can see their incredible kids in action.
- There is NO better profession on this planet! I always try to remember that on any given day, there are thousands of other teachers that would LOVE to get to do the job that I have the opportunity to do with my students. I don’t take one day with my amazing students for granted.
As you head into your classroom tomorrow and the weeks ahead, think about all of the reasons you decided to become a teacher and all of the awesome things your students have taught you! Be the best you can possibly be for them! They are lucky to have you!