10 Rules To Help You Become a Better Teacher

How can you be a better teacher?

When I say better teacher I don’t mean the horrible CPD workshops every teacher experienced. Did you shudder? I’m sure you did.

Rebecca Allen writes about the bad CPD here.

She asked teachers on Twitter about their worst CPD and got some interesting answers:

When I say better teacher I mean real-life based, simple, common sense rules, which seem so obvious , yet we often forget about them.

It’s simple – we can be better teachers, when we are better humans.

We often forget to be better humans because we’re too busy, we have plans to follow, homework to check, tests to prepare, not enough time, not enough energy.

In the rush of the day, we forget how to be better teachers.

Here are 10 rules that will help you realize what you already know.

To be a better teacher, you must grow as a person.

1. Lose the ego

This is not about you. Your role is to be as invisible as possible.

It’s not about being liked by your students, or their parents, or even your boss. Its about giving your students as much as you can, but you have to understand, you are giving what isn’t yours.

You are not the best teacher in the world, or even at your school, and you don’t have to be.

You have nothing to prove, only students to teach.

2. Don’t be afraid to apologize

Teachers often worry that they have to be correct all the time, that they have to know everything, answer every curious question and it can be extremely stressful.

Some teachers never realize that they are wrong and insist, and insist, discouraging students and losing their trust and respect.

There is nothing wrong with being wrong. Admit it and learn from it.

Students appreciate honest teachers.

3. Don’t take it personally

Children can be mean. And some of them are mean to teachers. Small kids or teenagers, they sometimes direct their anger or personal issues towards their teachers.

Whatever they do, whatever they say, however it might hurt, don’t take it personally, don’t hold a grudge, don’t write that kid off. You don’t know their home situation, their anxieties, life experience.

Teachers are in a position of power and should be careful about not misusing that. Be a role-model in the way you handle the situation, turn it into a teaching moment.

4. Earn respect, don’t demand it

Let me repeat myself. In the classroom, you are in the position of power.

If you force your authority on your students, if you look down on them, humiliate them, you are never going to earn their respect.

Fear is not respect.

True respect grows organically and for it to happen you need to:

1. Listen and act on the feedback you get

2. Show respect to your students

2. Show your vulnerability

5. Be patient

Patience is one of the most important qualities of a great teacher. You will be explaining the same concepts over and over again.

Students will be distracted, they’ll be asking the same questions again and again. It’ll get frustrating, monotonous and boring.

Every now and then, if you are patient enough, something magical will happen.

They will learn.

6. Listen more, speak less

Imagine the teacher talking for the whole duration of the lesson and students frantically writing down every word – sound silly, right?

That was my childhood. Even at the university, this is how most of the lectures were taught.

Tragically, this is how many teachers are still teaching these days.

Let the students speak. Let them discuss, share ideas, explore and make mistakes.

Don’t talk so much, guide them.

7. Don’t badmouth your students

Teachers complain about students, and that’s normal. It’s a stressful job and it’s a way to decompress.

Sometimes teachers discuss their students when they need help or advice and that’s also fine.

What you should never do, is to gossip about your students’ personal issues, mistakes or embarrassing situations with colleagues.

I’ve had a colleague who loved complaining about her students at lunch. She was a very negative person who found a perverse pleasure in belittling her students. She compared them to their older siblings she used to teach, criticized the way they dressed, talked and behaved.

They were never good enough for her.

Don’t be that teacher.

8. Don’t judge

People judge other people constantly. It’s our nature.

We judge others based on the way they look and talk, we judge them based on their jobs, skin color, religion, etc. It’s a primal instinct, they way our brain is wired.

In education, it’s very important to realize that our judgmental brain hinders us from seeing the potential in our students.

Every student has their own path to success.

9. Don’t be afraid to improvise

Planning your lessons is important. Following those plans not that much.

Even the most well-planned lesson will fail sometimes. You’ll need to adjust, change the pace, improvise.

Planing helps you to to prepare for the ideal lesson, experience helps you to prepare for the real one.

The only way to gain experience is by trial and error. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, learn from them.

10. Have fun

Teaching is a stressful job, even more so among Covid-19 pandemic. It’s the little things that can help us cope. A cup of coffee in the morning, a walk in the afternoon or a good book in the evening.

People perform better when they like what they do and students remember more when they are relaxed. If you have fun at work, you’ll like it more and when your students have fun while learning, they’ll enjoy it more.

Every time we’re interested and engaged in a subject, our brains get a shot of dopamine. The feelings of pleasure that follow make us want to keep learning, exploring and pushing ourselves to find out more.

One of the best things about teaching is the fun you can have with your students.

Have fun at work, it’s important.

Let your students speak:

Balderdash: ESL Speaking Game

Unfinished Sentences ESL Speaking Activity

ESL Speaking Activity: Conversation Cards

ESL Speaking Activity: Conditional Discussion Questions

ESL/EFL Speaking Activity: Role Play Debate

ESL Vocabulary Activity Based on Taboo: Food

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