Success as a teacher can be defined in a number of ways. School administrators might see success in numbers (graduation rates, for instance). Parents might see success only through the prism of the advantages their child gets. As a teacher, your bar might be in a different place; perhaps only when those small victories outweigh the challenges in the classroom. Students might see a successful teacher as one who can make learning fun and never give up on them. How do we balance all of these expectations as teachers? Here are a few ways teachers can keep their focus on the right areas and help foster growth in their students.
- Successful Teachers Are Consistent
Children learn best when boundaries are clear and consistent, both in terms of their learning progress and their behavior in the classroom. When you say something, stick to it. When you make a rule, apply it universally. If you promise something, be sure you follow through on it. Doing these things establishes your authority, fosters a sense of fairness and helps students know where they stand.
- Successful Teachers Know How and When to Be Fun
When you decided to become a teacher, you probably didn't do it with visions of a stuffy, authoritarian classroom. You probably pictured kids with smiles on their faces, having fun and learning at the same time. Indeed, successful teachers understand there's a time and place to be silly, crack a joke or laugh at their mistakes. These qualities can actually make your students love the learning experience.
- Successful Educators Set Lofty Expectations for Students
When you set low expectations, you can be sure they'll be met. A better approach is to set the bar higher — students respond when they know that great things are expected of them. Let them know that you demand their best shot and you will hold them accountable; most will rise to the occasion.
- Successful Teachers Create a Safe Environment
The classroom should be a physically safe place to learn but it should also be a safe space for sharing, exploring who they are and, most importantly, failing. We do want to create high expectations but we also want students to understand that it's okay to fail as long as we use it as a learning experience.
- Successful Teachers Are Teach-Savvy
All too often, we get overwhelmed by new technology and end up sticking with what we know. But embracing new technology in the classroom means meeting students where they live and learn, whether it's through social media, video games, or using tech that speaks to them.
- Successful Educators Take Risks
Trying the same methods, even good ones, over and over, can be dull and can send the wrong message to students. In the same way that we want them to fail and learn from it, we should be willing to try new things. If they fail, we own up to it and move on to a new tactic. Students aren't just looking at the content of lessons, they're observing the way we, as role models, handle adversity and persevere.
- Successful Teachers Are Willing to Listen
It's important to keep in mind that students are dealing with a wide range of issues, whether it's turmoil at home, bullying at school or pressures from outside sources. They may be doing poorly because of factors outside their control. Great teachers know how to listen to students and, more importantly, have empathy for their situations, remembering that these times can be confusing and difficult for them.
- Successful Educators Know How to Shake it Off
This can be one of the hardest lessons to learn as a new teacher but taking setbacks personally or losing focus because of outside forces only leads to more problems. The classroom is a sacred place and being able to set everything aside while you're in that space is crucial for your mental health and the success of your students.
- Successful Teachers Attend to Their Well-Being
The challenges of teaching can be overwhelming. There are issues with parents, expectations from school administration, conflicts in the classroom and professional pressures (like being evaluated by state education departments and maintaining teacher certification) that can lead to burnout. Successful educators find ways to attend to their mental health, whether that means yoga, cooking, going for hikes or tuning out the noise and just binge-watching your favorite shows without guilt. Whatever helps you find your "zen" is a good thing.