By Elizabeth DeLyon
“If we believe in active student learning, we must consider the variety of ways in which students are encouraged to participate.”
Barrie Bennett & Peter Smilanich
As an educator for more than 27 years, I find that my daily teaching practices help me to enjoy a profession of helping and loving others. The action steps I take each day determine my effectiveness in the classroom. Here are my tips for terrific teaching.
Create Positive Relationships. Students are more productive, creative and willing to learn in positive environments. As I value their presence, greet each student warmly, proudly display their work, and share achievements, I become more invested in them. My attitude fosters real connections with students. As I encourage positive mindsets, it shapes how students treat themselves and all of the rest of the classroom community. Students form deeper alliances with their teacher because they feel important and know that they genuinely matter to her.
Build Trust. By being trustworthy. When students know how you are going to react to situations and their actions, they will more fully engage. Maintaining consistent reaction and response to student input throughout the day will help build confidence between you and your students. Your consistency builds trust and assurance with your students. With this security, they will take more risks relationally and in their learning going beyond routine thinking and will be more successful in their assignments and interactions.
Set Attainable Goals. When students know why and what they are doing, they can better gauge themselves through the assignment to successful completion. At the beginning of each lesson define the goals. Give students the big picture. We all like to know the “why and for how long”. Students are no different. Goal setting keeps students more engaged in their learning and helps the teacher reach her teaching goals, too. This brings joy to my day when I see that what I am doing makes a difference in lives.
Design Clear Procedures. Do you clearly know your procedures? Do you follow them? Procedures become internalized and structure the day as they are followed and directed by the leader of the class. Allow the students to actively participate in the creation of class rules and consequences. This simple act reaps big reward as it helps to remind and prevent derailment at the same time. Students buy in more readily and remember the rules when they create the rules they are expected to follow. There are less distractions and outbursts resulting in a more peaceful environment.
Be Fully Prepared. As you are prepared, your confidence flows from you to your students creating a peace and calm where learners grow best. Well thought out lessons with achievable goals makes the learning environment safe, keeps the learners on track, and helps guard against the unseen things.
Reinforce The Good. Know how and when to respond to the “not so good”. “I like how Keanu is turning to his partner to discuss”, rather than “Jennifer you never turn to face your partner.” The former helps the off task student consider their own behavior rather than highlighting their error in front of their peers which may cause shame and actually deter the learner from making the desired change. As I reinforce and keep my focus on the positive, it brings more gladness in my day.
Decide When To Correct. And decide when not to correct a behavior. Strengthen your intuition to know when it is best to highlight a situation and when to just let things ride. Disciplining students is a necessary component of teaching, so that they learn to reflect on their choices, not because they are “bad.” Maya Angelou- “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”
Identify Strengths. Your classroom is filled with others who can support you in a variety of ways throughout your day. Identify classroom leaders and encourage them to collaborate in a variety of ways that helps develop a sense of community within your classroom. Actions such as re-teaching struggling learners, correcting papers, and completing routine tasks will strengthen students’ ability to encourage and teach others while giving you welcomed support.
When things go wrong. Reflect. Ask yourself, why is the child acting out? When does the behavior occur? What is he doing? What is he saying? When we approach difficult situations with a desire to solve the problem rather than react to the behavior, it de-escalates the situation and fosters solution. Is it a skill deficit where the student needs to learn the skill, or is it a performance deficit where the student will benefit from motivation? The more you know about the problem, the more clear the solution. Spend a little time in the problem and spend the majority of time in the solution.
Above all. Practice what you preach to the students. Monitor yourself well. Know when you need to take a time out. Be excited about your job. Maintain a flexible mindset. Outside of school, do what feeds you. You cannot give away something that you do not have. Be happy yourself and create a happy classroom of productive students.
Elizabeth is a National Board Certified Teacher in Early Childhood Education. She currently works as a third-grade teacher at Haiku Elementary School on the island of Maui. Her 28 years of experience range from preschool through graduate school, with the majority in third grade. She regularly trains student teachers to share her practices and passion.