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8.5 Ways To Be A Better Teacher: Advice from A Fourth Grade Class

Monday, May 11, 2015

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For those working in the field of education, help is easy to find. Advice is constantly thrown our way, whether from coworkers, professors, students' parents, administrators, online blogs, scholarly articles, NGOs, professional development speakers . . . the list (for better or worse) goes on and on. Yet since I've entered the classroom, I've learned that perhaps some of the wisest, most practical, and most meaningful advice comes from a group we don't listen to nearly as much as we should: the students themselves.

Consequently, I'd like to share some excellent advice from some excellent individuals: my fourth grade students. The advice is extremely applicable to teachers, but I think you'll find that even if you're not working in the classroom, you'll still be able to glean some important insights. Here are eight (and a half) pieces of advice to get you started:

"Always be prepared." – Carl

It's impossible to be prepared for every possible event with a given school day. But it is possible to always be prepared for the unprepared. In other words, situations are going to arise for which you could not have been prepared, but you can be prepared to stay calm, trust your instincts, and remind yourself that everything will work out.

"Gain [students'] trust by not being so strict." – Liza

I firmly believe that you can be a strong and efficient disciplinarian and classroom manager without being strict, and the best way to achieve this is through conversation. Don't just dole out punishments when students break the rules. Converse with them: find out why they did it, what they can do differently next time, and explain the consequence. They'll gain more respect for you.

"Be a real person." – Alejandra

Be yourself in the classroom. Your students will love and respect you even more than they would otherwise, and you'll be more comfortable in your teaching.

"Don't get frustrated." – Clarissa

When you're teaching fractions and you don't understand why your students do not understand the concept (after all, you've presented it five different ways), check yourself as you become frustrated. Frustration doesn't help you teach or the student learn. This ties directly to Jason's piece of advice: "Patience." Enough said.

"If you need help with a lesson, tell the kids to read while you get help from another teacher." – Natalia

While I certainly had to do this a few times, you should probably keep it to a minimum. The main point is, though, that you cannot be afraid to ask for help. Whether with teaching a concept, managing the classroom, and giving discipline, asking for help is beneficial for both you and the students.

"You have to take your students seriously." – Luke

Students are people too, and their opinions matter. Respect and listen to what your children have to say. Chances are that you'll learn a lot about them and yourself.

"Have fun." – Dorota

In an educational world of instructional minutes, unit planning, learning differentiation, assessment analysis, and professional development, it can be all too easy to overlook another equally important responsibility: make learning fun. There are few jobs that give adults the privilege to spend each day with children. Appreciate and help foster the joy and curiosity of your kids!

"Don't be afraid to fail." – Cassie

You're going to have moments of failure, because you're only human and teaching can be really, really challenging. Learn from these moments but don't dwell on them. They're going to make you a better teacher and person. Plus, they're great teachable moments for your kids, and they'll allow your students to see you as a real person.

"Ask your students for advice!" – Mr. Casey