The Top Three Tools to Become a Better Teacher

 Every teacher wants to be the best teacher they can be. Teachers spend much of their own time and money researching new ways to be effective and attend a myriad of classes and PD’s (professional development meetings). If you visit a teacher in their home or look at their computer or phone chances are you will see a ton of books, podcasts and articles on their chosen craft. For those who are looking to be effective teachers here are the top three tools and techniques that all teachers can use. 

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  1. Take Care of Yourself

This may seem like a no brainer but all teachers need to learn not only how to disengage from teaching but what is the most effective way to take care of themselves. It is so important to take time to decompress, relax and put yourself first. For teachers it is so very important to learn different ways to decompress. Some common techniques that teachers should learn include:

  • Exercise - One often overlooked way to take care of yourself is to exercise. It seems counterintuitive to spend your time outside of the classroom working out, but lifting weights and cardio can provide endorphins that can help you think more positively.
  • Yoga - Yoga can give all of the same benefits as regular exercise with less impact. 
  • Meditation - Meditation can help you focus on the moment and release anxiety. For teachers that are always thinking about the classroom, meditation can provide a chance to detach. 

By taking care of themselves teachers can avoid ruining their immune system and burning themselves out. Being able to engage with students and the craft is imperative and teachers taking care of themselves can help. 

  1. Positive Outlook

One of the things that affects a teacher greatly is their outlook on their profession. For many teachers the thing that makes teaching hard is their own outlook on the profession. It is really easy to get stuck in a negative mindset and allow that cycle to spiral out of control. With positive outlook teachers make sure to focus on the positive in some of the following ways:

  • Focus on Student’s Strengths - It can be tempting to focus on the things that certain students aren’t doing. All that’s needed is to flip that mindset. Instead of being annoyed that someone is habitually late, focus on the things they do well in class. 
  • Start Your Day with Something Positive - Teachers who enjoy their jobs start their day with something that puts them in a good mood. For some that’s arriving ten minutes early for a cup of coffee in silence. For others that’s cranking some music before the school day starts.

A good baseline is also trying to make sure that you praise more than you correct. A 4:1 ratio is what most teachers shoot for with 5:1 being a high goal to stretch for. When the focus is constantly on the positive, that mindset soon becomes the default outlook. 

  1. Using a Curriculum Map Template

For many teachers they get stressed by coming up with lesson plans on the fly or when they feel unprepared for an upcoming unit. One of the easiest ways to take that anxiety away during the school year and to maintain a good balance of home and work life is to use a curriculum map template and plan in the summer. Making use of this tool outside the normal school year allows for:

  • Time to Reflect - When you are planning during the school year it is too hard to properly reflect on your lesson planning process. Doing it in the summer allows you to reflect and plan in peace. 
  • Plan New Content - When planning during the year teachers are often surviving, not thriving. Planning during the off season allows teachers to contemplate new ideas that they might not otherwise think of. 
  • Focus on the Big Ideas - By using a curriculum map template teachers can make sure to focus their units and plans on the big ideas that they want students to take away. 

All in all, for many teachers the summer is a time to decompress and relax but it should also be a time to reignite the passion for the craft of teaching. Coming up with new plans and ideas allows for that fire to be rekindled and helps from feeling the weight of only being one step ahead of the students.