How can I Become a Better Teacher?

By its very nature, teaching is an immensely difficult profession, but the reward can also be immense. However, every teacher can land in a rut, one that keeps the students from learning effectively and the teacher from working to their potential. There are simple steps to take if you are in one of those ruts, but the first step in becoming a better teacher is convincing yourself that you have the drive to become one.

The key to effective teaching, as many teachers will tell you, is energy. No, you don't need to jump around the classroom or do a stand-up comedy act for your class -- in fact, such an approach will not make you a better teacher. It will cause the students to expect a show person rather than an educator. But energy is vital. If you are drained and tired, your students will respond in kind. Likewise, if you approach your subject with genuine passion and enthusiasm, your students will most likely mimic that, too.

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Probably one of the most difficult aspects of teaching is the relationship between the teacher and the student. Because of age difference, generational dissonance, and differences in interest and mannerisms, teachers and students may not be able to easily find common ground. To become a better teacher, you must put some of that past you and do something that sounds obvious but is actually quite a challenge for some educators: listen to your students. When given the opportunity to express themselves, students will almost always impress.

But, there's a catch: in order to encourage students to express themselves, a teacher must foster an environment conducive to discussion and expression. This can be particularly difficult for subjects such as math, where there is not much gray area between correct answers and incorrect ones. But that is one of the challenges of becoming a better teacher: being innovative enough to change your classroom's atmosphere and allowing students enough intellectual elbow room to flex their brain muscles. Keeping a disciplined and structured environment is important, but it can become overwhelming when rules outweigh freedom to express ideas.

Conversely, in subjects like literature or writing, the teacher needs to remember that their own ideas and opinions will not necessarily match up with those of the students. In fact, count yourself successful if your students are coherently forming ideas and opinions different or contrary to your own -- that means you have inspired them to think beyond what they have been told. Regurgitation is not necessarily learning, and if your students are simply parroting what you have told them, it might be time to take that energy up a notch.

There are no magic secrets that will make you a better teacher, but students will respond to the atmosphere you create for them. If you create a stimulating and consistently interesting environment, your students will be interested and stimulated. If you stand at the blackboard and drone on because you are bored and tired, your students will do the same. You set the tone, so think carefully about what you hope to achieve.

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Discuss this Article

umbra21
Post 3

@browncoat - I would say that's why the most important thing an elementary school teacher can do is get her class to work together and trust each other. Learning can't take place for someone who is embarrassed or afraid and that kind of atmosphere is all too common in our schools.

I think some teachers feel it shouldn't be their job to foster friendships between students, but that can be one of the most important aspects of a teacher's job.

browncoat
Post 2

@pastanaga - I would recommend that teachers do a lot of research and a lot of deep thinking about the changes they make in their classroom and why they work (or don't work). Sometimes it can be for a different reason than you expect.

I did a little experiment with some children in my practicum where I put them into pairs and got them to critique each other's writing and ask their partner for help before going to the teacher. I was hoping to build their confidence and independence, and it worked, but not because they had someone else to rely on. When I interviewed them after a few weeks I realized it worked because they were being relied on by

someone else. Positioning them as experts (even equal experts in a pair) did wonders for their self esteem about writing and classwork in general.

It made me realize how seldom an individual child gets called on each day in the classroom and how important it is to ensure they each get time to express themselves and their opinion.

pastanaga
Post 1

Inquiry is extremely important for a healthy career in teaching. No matter how good a teacher you might be you could always improve yourself and the way you relate to this particular classroom of students.

It's basically just a little bit of experimenting, where you keep track of what works and what doesn't and change your methods accordingly. It works even better if you are doing it as part of a supportive group at your school, or in your region.

Learning is a lifelong journey and once you become a teacher you have to take charge of your own learning.

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