sparkfunelectronics-teacher-advice-fiAdvice For Teachers? 10 Things To Not Lose Sight Of This Year

by Terry Heick

For many of us, school’s starting soon. Instead of a tool or learning model or 1400 word essay, how about a few quick ideas that might just save you this year–if you can keep from losing sight of them.

10. Schools should be ready for students, not the other way around. 

I’m not sure where I heard this recently, and Google wasn’t helping me figure it out, but it’s perfect. You’re there for the students, not the building, the district, or some organization.

9. The school year is a marathon, not a sprint.

And this should have significant implications for instructional design–spiraling, for example. Some ideas students can “get” right away, while others will take all year. Continuously spiral those sufficiently complex ideas so student shave a chance to master them.

8. You don’t need a million tools and strategies to teach well.

So use a handful that are flexible and powerful. The 40/40/40 rule is a wonderful on-the-fly measuring stick to help prioritize content, teaching, and assessment. Other useful tools that can come in handy? Metaphors, similes, and analogies (using them to teach complex ideas–“a thesis statement is the _____ of an essay a…”; “The Civil Rights movement was like…”; RAFT assignments. Choice boards.

7. People change, and students are people.

You never know what a student is going through, or “where they are” in their development as human beings. Have a short memory, and be their best chance to become something great.

6. The students should talk more than you do.

This one’s easy to forget, especially when you have so much to teach. There’s the shift though–try to focus on what students are learning and how, rather than what “you’re teaching.”

5. A growth mindset includes a sustainable mindset.

You can’t teach if you’re exhausted, misinformed, too hard on yourself, disconnected, or misunderstand your role in some critical way (as a colleague, a peer, a teacher, a department leader, etc.) It’s not your job to save the world. Every child needs something differentIn response, try to adopt learning models, tools, teaching strategies, and more–and use them in a way that doesn’t require superhuman effort from you to make it work. They should work harder than you do.

4. You’re a professional, and you control your own attitude.

You see what you want to see, so choose to see and assume the best in people and circumstances, and move forward from there. Schools can be places full of bad policies and absurd bureaucracy. You probably can’t change most of that, so focus on what you can change–and that starts with how you think.

3. How you make students feel can last a lifetime. Careful. 

You are a larger than-life-figure to most students. You’re a teacher! You may be the loudest voice in their already busy mind. Consider the character you play in that mind accordingly.

2. It’s not your job to prepare students for “the real world.”

Holding their feet to the fire for a deadline? Refusing to let them retake an exam? Requiring them to work with students they don’t begin to work well with? And doing so under the guise of “the real world”? For it to be successful, school should be the exact opposite of these characteristics we cherry pick from “life.” It should be a time to help them learn from mistakes; a place that helps protect them from themselves; a chance for them to adopt mindsets based on love and growth, not fear and policy. While this doesn’t excuse accountability measures for students, the big idea is clear: School is there for the students, students aren’t there for the school.

If we want a better world, we can’t continue to ladle in the worst parts of that broken world into our classrooms.

1. The students are always watching you.

How you treat people (even the “problem students); how you show compassion or model accountability. Where you go for resources. How you define “success.” What you do when you’re frustrated or upset. Your dedication and craft and expertise. They may not see it all every single time, but they never stop watching. This means your voice carries on outside the classroom, where they’ll continue to talk about you–for years to come if you’ve done it well.

Advice For Teachers? 10 Things To Not Lose Sight Of This Year; adapted image attribution flickr user sparkfunelectronics