Six Steps to Become a Stronger Teacher
Jose Luis Rodriguez is a first-grade Spanish dual language ambassador from Bogotá, Colombia. He is entering his third year teaching with Participate Learning at Kitty Hawk Elementary in Dare County, North Carolina. Read on to learn more about how his experiences as an ambassador with Participate Learning have made him a stronger teacher for his students.
One of the best experiences I have had working with Participate Learning has been the opportunity to grow professionally and become a stronger teacher. There is an abundance of teaching resources available that can be implemented into classrooms, but it is my experience that learning from others is the best way to gain effective skills to improve yourself and your classroom.
Here are six practical and easy tips to keep in mind that will better your teaching skills as you prepare for the upcoming school year:
1. Maintain a positive growth mindset
In the classroom, you will see there are external factors that may affect your learning environment. For example, some students might come to school without having breakfast or clean clothes or they might act out because of circumstances at home. When situations like these arise, remind yourself to stop and think—how can I support my students academically while also balancing potential stress from hardships at home?
Keep in mind your purpose as a teacher to impact students and help them achieve their best selves, and try not to take any acting out personally. According to Amabile and Kramer’s book, The Progress Principle, optimistic learners are better able to deal with stressful situations and are more likely to persist academically because they are motivated by the belief that they can accomplish their learning goals. Maintain a positive growth mindset and, hopefully, your support will help foster a sense of optimism and confidence for your students.
Learn more about how you can use stressful situations like student misbehavior or mistakes as a growth opportunity here.
2. Ask questions
Instead of asking yourself, “what do I have to do to become a stronger teacher?”, take a second and ask yourself first, “why do I want to improve as a teacher?” In a TED Talk by Simon Sinek, a motivational speaker and consultant, he explains the reason why companies like Apple maintain their success within their growing field.
The reason is that they believe the most important thing is to know the purpose of your actions. So, get to thinking and ask yourself—what are the reasons that make you strive for the best for your students and for yourself? Once you find the answer, you will be unique in your practices.
3. Monitor progress
As a teacher, you are responsible for fostering student growth. Start the year by jotting down the current reading level of your student and create a timeline of what you would like to see them achieve and by when.
Using this information, you can determine what strategies to implement and make individualized learning plans to fit the needs of each student. Keep these plans on hand so they are easily accessible and can be used throughout various lessons during the day.
4. Create polite and meaningful ways to communicate with parents
Find ways to communicate with parents beyond parent-teacher meetings that facilitate a professional and open relationship for discussing the progress of their child in the classroom. One way to do this is through periodic personal phone calls that allow parents to ask questions, give opinions, and hear more about their child’s academic and social experience at school.
If calling seems challenging due to other responsibilities, consider writing a newsletter that can be given out monthly in folders or posted on a class blog. As technology grows, you can also utilize social media by creating class accounts on Twitter or Facebook to give families daily updates.
Consider reaching out to leadership in your school to see what methods of communication they suggest for you to use so you align with their policies and can demonstrate your initiative. Taking intentional steps toward creating open lines of communication is key in fostering student growth and helping students achieve success in terms of the wishes of their parents.
Communication between parents and their students can be particularly challenging when language barriers are present. Encourage English-Language Learner (ELL) parents to engage with students at home too with the help of this resource.
5. Build relationships with your grade-level team
Building relationships with other teachers in your grade can establish a wonderful support system, especially when adjusting to the first year of teaching. Consider asking questions, offering suggestions, and starting conversations to make these connections and show initiative as a leader among your grade level.
You offer a unique perspective both culturally and professionally that can provide new ideas to improve your grade level overall and allow you to collaborate with other educators. Teaching becomes powerful when we work together to accomplish a goal.
6. Be flexible
In education, some days can prove to be more challenging than others. Life can sometimes get in the way, and lack of sleep or additional stress can potentially impact classroom management. On those days, it’s hard to teach effectively in the remaining few minutes that are left before dismissing the class. Try to take advantage of these situations and use programming to review concepts from earlier lessons or as bonding to improve classroom cohesion among students.
Remember, this extra time can be important for the students to recognize you as a leader because it requires a lot of dedication to maximize every second of your class and keep students engaged. Be productive, use your time wisely, and showcase your leadership!
Use these practical tips along with the Participate Learning global education resources page to help improve your teaching practices and maximize your impact on students or contact us directly to learn more.