The Effective Teacher
You will need to keep trying and recover from setbacks. A problem child may not respond to the first talk you give him/her after class. (He/she might, but you have to be prepared for no effect at all). Keep going. Try other approaches. Don’t give up on the child.
The staffroom is a very competitive place. You may face put-downs or sarcasm if people feel they are in competition with you. They may try to lessen the contributions you make to the school. They may try to magnify the effect they have on the school. Don’t be drawn in. If you have good values, they will shine through and if you have a good SMT, you will get recognized.
A parent may make a complaint about you that you feel is unfounded. Try not to take it to heart. A member of the SMT will probably want to talk to you about it. Don’t deal with feelings, deal in facts. If the problem is about lateness, talk about the number of recorded tardies, if it is about behaviour, explain the nature of the behaviour and the action taken. If the school has a protocol, make sure you have followed it.
A lot is asked of your time. Make sure you have the stamina to keep up with the demands of the job. (Some may argue that you can never keep up with the demands, but that is another article).
You will need to prepare all your lessons, go to meetings – often two or three a week, conduct an ASA (after school activity) and, of course, teach 30 or more lessons per week (approximately).
Balance your work life and school life. You need to socialise, enjoy some TV, rest, leisure, etc. But make sure it is “balanced” and doesn’t sway more toward one side than the other. Being very organised with your time can help. If you allocate weekends to leisure, if you can, all the better. But even then, when the public exams are coming along, you may have time for nothing but teaching.
If you don’t believe in what you are teaching you cannot expect your students to either. You should teach with a real love for your subject and give the impression that you can’t imagine doing anything else.
There is no need to be Stephen-Hawking-like, but you should have a wide knowledge of your subject – only the odd question should stump you. Even then, handle tough questions with humility and make sure you come back next lesson with a good answer.
Celebration of Work
You need to be serious about your subject but not so serious that you can’t see the funny side of something or unable to illustrate a tough concept with an amusing anecdote. Sometimes, a difficult disciplinary situation can be diffused by a healthy sense of humour.
Beware. Don’t turn your lesson into a one man/woman show. You may be able to hold a class’ attention with your witty jokes and amusing anecdotes but if that is the sole content of your lessons, it won’t be long till you get an email from your supervisor asking for a meeting.
Time for Fun
You will be asked to do many things apart from teaching. Make sure you stay on top of the marking, the lesson plans, the report grades and comments, the self-evaluation forms and the many other things that will land in your inbox during a term.
One of the things supervisors are evaluated on is their ability to gather information and disseminate it around the school. If you are the missing chain in the communication links, you are not going to be too popular. The odd late submission will be tolerated – frequent breaking of deadlines will not.
Be willing to give your students a second, third or fourth chance. Even to the ones who drive you to distraction. Don’t hold a behaviour against a child. They are only children after all. If a student is constantly upsetting the balance of your class, refer to your immediate supervisors and colleagues. Maybe there is a pattern that can be identified and an intervention may need to take place.
Try to be gracious in your dealings with all those you are in contact with. Yes, it is difficult to stay calm with a parent who has chewed your ear off about Johnny’s terrible exam grades – even though he hardly ever comes to class. Your patience may be sorely tested by a colleague who is always asking you how to fill in IB documentation. The Head may have been unreasonable in the way he spoke to you about a lesson observation he conducted. But it is always better to stay calm and speak in an even tone rather than resort to emotional responses.
A parent can be brought round to your way of thinking. A colleague will eventually get the hang of form filling and although he/she will not admit that they are wrong, a Head’s opinion of you can change over time.
Get a feel for the educational culture of the school and follow it. Yes, you want to be your own person and express yourself but there is nothing worse than being a loose cannon and an outsider. If the dress code for the school is formal, follow it. If the school wants students pushed to their limit, do it. Don’t stand back and do your own thing, ignoring the prevailing culture of the school.
Have a variety of approaches available to, conduct lessons, talk to colleagues, supervisors, parents, cleaners, dinner ladies and people in general. Don’t despair at the first sign of failure.
Students appreciate a variety of different lesson-types during the week. They love to work in groups, conduct research, make a film, act out a play and so on. But if you are wise, after some lessons that have been demanding of the students’ time and effort, subsequent lessons may concentrate on writing up research into a dossier or holding an investigation into a hypothesis that has been formulated.
You do not need to be friends with your colleagues. Sometimes there will be staff you work with that have the same outlook on life as you and are a breeze to work with. But most staff will not be like that. They may seem old and boring or young and foolish. They may be very selfish or unable to see both sides of a story. Sometimes it is better to just take a step back and leave things well alone. But getting wound up and angry can cause sleepless nights. Letting someone have their own way doesn’t mean you are giving in. Often you can just work round them and get the job done. But conflict just leads to tension and in a job like teaching you need to manage stress as well as you can.
Being able to manage a classroom of young people is not easy. They have got to know what they are doing so you will need to communicate the objective(s) of the lesson to them from the start. This is not easy in some subjects where there may be ongoing objectives that are always a part of your lessons. In skills-based subjects like English, it may be very hard to “pin-down” your objectives into words that evaluators or inspectors may like. A good supervisor will have some ideas on this problem.
Your class needs to be student-friendly. There should be illustrations of some of the concepts you are teaching on the wall as well as examples of students’ work.
It is a good thing to keep things moving and allow yourself time to get around the class to find out how the students are dealing with the objective(s) you have set for the lesson.
Before the lesson ends there should be a reflection on what has gone on in the lesson. If the students understood the work, they should have a lot to say to you.
Classroom rules are a necessary part of management techniques. With younger classes, they should be in a prominent position for referral and maybe amendment when necessary. For older classes, rules will be well known. Take turns speaking, stay on task during the allotted time, respect what others say and so on.
Infringements need to be dealt with. It may be a quick reminder or even a warning is necessary. Constant infractions will face a consequence.
Try to be fair. But don’t take that to mean letting students off as they will take that it that you are not serious about enforcing the rules.
Different age ranges may need modified approaches to discipline. In a fair, well-managed classroom, most students will respond well. There will always be one exception to the rule. Seek support from the Students’ Services Office, your HOD or Year Head if there is a student who will not co-operate. Try to come to some determination with colleagues about a common way of dealing with a student who has difficulty following the rules.
Teaching is a demanding job. you have to have a wide subject knowledge base and you have to be able to find lots of different ways to teach your students. You also have to fulfill the needs of admin staff as well as parents. This can prove a great strain. But the rewards are the happy faces of your students and the love and respect they will give you.