“Yes, I want to do things to set my students up to fail!”
Said no teacher ever.
If you’re reading this I know that you want just the opposite. You want to know how to set your students up to succeed. Your desire is to teach with excellence.
I don’t have all the right answers. I’m far from knowing it all. But I have experienced a lot of success in my years in education. One of my proudest moments was when 92% of my students passed our state math and reading assessments. And these were students from high poverty backgrounds, most with dual languages in the home.
This is not a call to perfection, but a call to excellence. So in this post, I want to chat about some of the things that I feel are major roadblocks to effective instruction. Check the list to see if you’re doing any of these things.
Ok, so classroom management is kind of a big deal. Classroom management is the glue that holds your classroom together. If you don’t have tight classroom management, everything else will fall apart.
Our God is a God of order. Just look around you at creation, the intricacies of the solar system, the seasons and even how our bodies work. God likes order, not chaos. Our classrooms should follow suit.
There is no way to succeed in delivering a successful lesson if you don’t have control of the environment.
I really wish teacher prep programs did more with explicitly teaching classroom management techniques. I know when I was in college, I received zero instruction on classroom management. That is just so crazy to me because it’s soooo important.
So yes, it’s time for teachers to stop with the poor classroom management. Let’s rise to excellence and run well-managed classrooms.
A poorly managed classroom is really a huge disservice to students. If you are struggling with classroom management, get help. Don’t go at it alone. Educate yourself on management techniques. Go observe a colleague. Ask your principal for tips.
Whatever you do, do something. Don’t let the year go on and watch your classroom slowly slip out of your grip.
It’s not fun to go to work every day and not feel in control. Get control back and put your classroom in order.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate a good program and a well thought out math or reading series. These programs are put in place to help make our lives easier, for sure.
Nothing is better than having a solid research-based program with all the bells and whistles. BUT…programs should never get in the way of what I call the essence of education – teaching your students the standards.
With so many resources that districts give out, you can easily get caught in a web of cookie cutter lessons, pacing guides, and scripted programs. So much so that teachers often get so focused on getting through the whole math book or teaching all the stories in the reading curriculum that the standards get put on the back burner.
Believe me, I understand. I know there are requirements put in place by your district that require you to be on a certain unit or a certain story by a certain date. But never let the need to be on day 23 of the math guide get in the way of whether or not your students are understanding the concepts.
I believe you can appease your district authority, while at the same time ensuring that your students are learning the concepts that they need to know for your grade level.
So remember…teaching standards > teaching programs.
Data is king. For real. This is right up there with teaching programs over standards.
Y’all, we cannot be out here in these education streets just teaching without knowing why we’re teaching what we teach and what exactly we need to be teaching. If you don’t know what your students have learned, how can you know where you need to go next with your instruction?
Data is the steering wheel. It should drive your instruction in whatever direction your students need to go. Data helps you create the path in which you take your students down.
Data shows you if your students have mastered a concept. It shows you if they got it or not. Remember, the essence of education is making sure your students are learning the standards. This can only be measured with data.
Now when I say data, don’t automatically think of a big test. Data can be formal or informal.
Observing your students and jotting down notes on what you observe is data. Giving your students an exit ticket is data.
Data can be gathered from one problem or one question. You can listen to your students as they read a text and get data. You can simply watch your students work or listen to them give an explanation for how they solved a problem.
Data is king. Get data from your students and get it often. No more blind teaching. Use that data to guide your instruction.
So let’s talk a little bit about how we’re treating students. Now I get it, we’re all human and have buttons that our students push at times. And trust me, there is a time and a place for a nice stern talking to and a couple seconds of “the look” to get your students’ attention.
But I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the sarcasm, the rude comments, and the just plain mean, unnecessary things that can be said to kids.
The student who lost their highlighter, asks you to borrow one, and instead of just saying “yes” and tossing them a highlighter, you spend a good minute getting on them about the importance of responsibility with materials.
I’m talking about the student that has to go to the bathroom and gets a lecture on how the class just went to the bathroom 30 minutes ago. Um, newsflash, none of us can control our bladders. If you gotta go, you gotta go.
Now, I’m not saying to just let your students run wild and do whatever. Expectations are a must. I am a high structure teacher myself.
But your students are human beings, just like you.
You have to get to know your students and you have to know when to just chill out. Your students are God’s creation. They are His handiwork. Treat them with respect and care.
This goes hand in hand with making sure you are in the right place mentally and spiritually before students enter your room. Don’t take your bad morning out on your students. The Bible commands us to walk in love (Eph. 5:2)
So, think before you speak and view your students through God’s eyes. Rude, mean comments have no business coming out of your mouth.
IF YOU NEED HELP GETTING YOURSELF SPIRITUALLY FOCUSED BEFORE THE DAY STARTS, READ >>12 PRAYERS EVERY TEACHER SHOULD PRAY DAILY
You’re probably wondering what I mean by frills over facts. This basically means getting distracted by the frills of teaching…the cute lessons, getting the picture perfect Instagram photo, having the best HGTV inspired classroom – the frills.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a nice “Fixer Upper” inspired classroom library. But don’t be so concerned about having the cutest classroom that you forget about the essence of what’s really important: the facts, or the truth of teaching. The fact is that your students need to be taught the standards.
I believe some of you are overwhelmed with teaching because your focus is on trying to create the perfect lesson. Just teach.
Focus on those standards. Not every lesson needs to be a get out of your seat, cooperative learning, music-infused, technology-driven masterpiece of a lesson. Sometimes your students just need to sit and be taught. You can still be engaging without pulling all the rabbits out of your hat.
Focus on the facts and not the frills.
Pretty much all of my teaching experience has been in high poverty, high ESOL populations. If there’s one thing that really gets under my skin, it’s hearing teachers say that “our students” CAN’T do this or do that. This is so not true.
“Our students” can do a lot. A whole lot. I’ve seen it with my own eyes, I’ve experienced it within the walls of my own classroom. Your students can rise to the occasion if you set the bar high. They are capable of doing deep thinking, answering higher order thinking questions, working through a word problem and producing exquisite pieces of writing. They can.
If you set the bar low, that’s where they’ll meet you. Push your students to get to the next level. They will experience frustration. Let them know that that’s okay. Productive struggle is a good thing!
Expect excellence from your students. Stop accepting messy work and rushed answers. Expect your students to put effort into their work.
We should have high expectations for even the simplest thing, like handwriting. I’ve seen this happen a couple times where there’s a student who just has downright messy handwriting. I would then have that same student in one of my small groups and I tell them that they need to write neatly. I have them erase and rewrite when it’s messy and voila, they are able to produce some pretty nice looking handwriting.
All because I made it an expectation.
So set the bar high. Get to know your students and push them to learn, grow, and reach amazing levels of proficiency.
Just say no to subpar work.
We have to stop doing so much for our students that they never learn to do anything on their own. You have to know when to push them and when to step in and provide help. There must a balance.
No, you don’t want your students in tears every day. But you do want them to face challenges in their learning and figure out how to get through it.
Again, there is an art to this. You have to know when to step in. That’s where the Holy Spirit comes in. He’ll guide you as you’re teaching and let you know when you need to back off and when you need to provide support.
This is also why scaffolding is important. You must plan out your lessons with the proper supports so that you are setting your students up for success.
Don’t be out here just throwing questions at your students that they don’t have the tools in place to answer. Set them up for success by giving them the supports they need to succeed but don’t spoon feed!
Listen to me. Come a little closer. Hear me loud and clear.
Yes, your job as a teacher can be frustrating. You’re going to have to do things you don’t want to do. You’re going to have rough days.
But do you really need to get bent out of shape because your class’ P.E. period got moved to the end of the day?
Do you really need to fall apart into a million pieces because your writing block got interrupted by an assembly?
Um. No, you don’t.
This is also where your perspective as a Christian teacher comes in. This is why “Teachers Focusing on God” is the goal for this year! When you are focused on Christ and He is truly the foundation of your happiness, a lot of things the come at you in life or in your classroom just won’t phase you. You must have an eternal perspective. I love the quote,
There are so many things in life that are just not that big of a deal. With an eternal perspective, you can learn to view things through the right lens.
When you focus on one thing, everything else becomes blurred. If you are looking straight ahead everything else in sight becomes peripheral. You can’t visually focus on more than one thing at a time. It’s just not possible.
So when you make it a point to focus on God, everything else becomes minor. So stop sweating the small stuff.
You can’t always control your circumstances, but you can control how you respond to them.
So the 8 things teachers need to stop doing are:
I hope this has made you think a little. What else would you add to the list? What else do teachers need to stop doing?
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