How to Be a Successful Teacher
Great, Successful Teachers
Teaching might just be the most difficult job you’ll ever love. You’re a politician, a parent, a counselor, a police officer, a triage nurse, and yes, you even get to teach. Few teachers stick with the profession, because it’s so difficult. In fact, new teachers remain in our profession an average of just 4.5 years. Think about that for a moment. Do doctors, attorneys, engineers and other trained professionals stay within their fields of expertise for an average of 4.5 years, or do they tend to stay a lot longer? There’s nothing like teaching. It truly is a great profession, but it is quite possibly the most difficult job you’ll ever love.
Do you want to become the best teacher, the one everybody remembers? Do you want to earn teaching awards? Successful teachers have common characteristics. Here are some things you can do to become better, but beware, it won’t be easy.
Making Parents Think You're the Best Teacher
- Teaching is very political, so you must always be on your best behavior, in all places and not just at school. The weekend is yours, until you exit your home. Teachers are expected to be “on” in all public places, so don’t forget to dress your best and be on your best behavior. Basically, you’ll have to play the politician seeking votes. Do everything short of kissing babies, and you might just maintain that spotless reputation that is expected of you.
- Make sure all students get straight A’s, unless their parents expect a challenge. Most parents and students will consider you an excellent teacher if you have inflated grades. Teaching really doesn't matter much here. It’s less about what students are learning and more about what they are earning! Be careful though, there are those tricky parents and students who do not respect inflated grades. Instead, they expect a challenge. You could always poll your parents and students on the first day. Then, you could assign grades accordingly.
- Never give homework, unless you’re dealing with one of those tricky parents who expects it. Most parents and students will like the fact that you do not give homework that interferes with outside life/activities. Beware, there are parents who expect homework. Your poll should include this important question.
- Never contact a parent with anything negative. Many parents will accept constructive criticism, and many will become angry and defiant. It’s best to eliminate any negative feedback, or you could always ask parents, in the poll, if they prefer constructive criticism.
- Have high expectations. . .for everything but grades. If you sound challenging, that’s enough. Don’t actually be challenging though, or you’ll be considered too difficult. Being too difficult is a bad thing most of the time. There are some parents, however, who like the fact that you are being challenging. The poll should help you decide how to deal with this.
- Be a back-to-basics teacher, unless parents want you to be more creative. This one is kind of tricky. I suggest calling yourself a back-to-basics teacher among the right people, and discussing interesting and creative assignments among the rest. That way, you’ll cover all your bases.
- Never teach the “new math” unless parents have asked for it. Again, just talk to the right people about what type of math you are supposedly teaching that day.
- With students, fun is almost always better. Why do math when you can play games? Most students will remember you as their best teacher ever, if you do this. Others, the tricky ones, might find it less than challenging. Perhaps you could play games whenever the “tricky students” are absent.
- Smile at all times. Anything you say or any faces you may make can and will be used against you. Remember, students like to tell parents about everything, other than the things they learned in school. If you become angry with a misbehaving student, your reaction can make you at fault for the child’s misbehavior. A child’s misbehavior can become your fault, so I suggest mass quantities of botox and lithium. By using botox, the face-enhancing drug, you’ll diminish the potential for making any wrong faces. Lithium should help with the rest.
- Remember that you can not fight, because you’re never right. Okay, your administration never really said that, but they did tell you to listen, empathize, apologize, and solve the problem when you’re dealing with parents. What does this imply? Does it seem that you are walking on egg shells and apologizing for things you didn’t do? We hear about teacher and student accountability a lot. Maybe it’s time to really start talking about parent accountability.
- Keep your first ten to fifteen desks reserved for all of the students who require special seating as a result of hearing, vision, and attention difficulties. Parents will let you know where their children must sit. Just listen, smile, and oblige them.
Making Administrators Think You're the Best Teacher
- Administrators really love it when you have high standards, so make sure you give that impression.
- Administrators don’t like parent complaints, so don’t have high standards. Having high standards results in parent complaints.
- Administrators love it when you turn in lesson plans and other things on time. Since you really don’t have time to do all of the paperwork, just give your students a worksheet. This will give you more time to complete the mounds of useless paperwork.
- Administrators don’t like it when you give too many worksheets. Remember your copy count?
- Always dress professionally. Administrators will think the world of you if you “look” like the ideal teacher. Remember that appearance is often more important than substance.
- Make sure you have great classroom control. Administrators watch for this more than they watch for great instruction. It’s true! Just read the average teacher evaluation, and you’ll see what I mean.
- Smile. Don’t use botox. You’re expected to be happy when additional challenges, reports, and demands are directed at you. Administrators love to call it “flexibility.” Just smile, and say, “Yes, please!”
- Remember that being a “team player” means doing everything nobody wants to do. Be a team player, and don’t forget to smile.
- Even though it seems ridiculous to put an agenda and objectives on your board, be flexible. Those first graders might just learn to read well enough to read what you wrote. Remember, objectives and agendas result in something positive. It doesn’t really matter what it is. Just smile and do it! Look at the bright side. The objectives and agenda take up so much of your board, you don’t really have much room to teach. How does a worksheet sound? I forgot, administrators don’t like worksheets. Just call it “independent practice.”
- Never be late to anything. You must be on time to all duties and all specials. Administrators love this, though they’re seldom on time.
- Always keep a clean and uncluttered desk. This makes everybody think you’re organized. If you get behind on grading, just file some low-profile papers in the proper filing cabinet, the garbage can. This will help you appear to be organized and uncluttered.
Making Teachers Think You're the Best Teacher
- Know which teachers are friends with the principal. Speak highly of the principal in front of these moles. Be the professional teacher you know you can be, or at least become a great actor.
- Be positive but not too positive. You want to be positive but not the school “Goody Two-Shoes.”
- Teachers like to complain, but you might be called a complainer if you complain too much. Know how to complain and with whom to complain.
- Make sure you look competent and knowledgeable, but don’t make other teachers feel like you’re trying to make them look inferior, even if they are. Remember, we all make the same salary as long as we have the same tenure. It’s really about surviving and not about performing!
- “Share” your best lessons and resources. Yes, I know it feels like you just keep giving and giving with little in return. While that’s probably true, keep smiling, be flexible, and be a team player!
- If there’s ever a time for good discipline, it’s when other teachers are watching. Spend ample time developing and practicing line procedures, entry procedures, and any other procedure necessary to make you look like you have control. Teachers don’t really see what’s going on after you shut your door, so they base their opinions about you on whether you have your students under control in public.
The Successful Teacher
There are shades of reality in my article, some darker shades than others. With this said, there really is no other job like teaching. You inspire and change lives each day. You truly can make a difference as a teacher. While I joke about teaching, I have nothing but the highest admiration for my fellow educators, administration, and the profession. The true secret to becoming a successful teacher is loving what you do and treating the children the way you would want a teacher to treat your own. If you do that, you'll be a successful teacher, the one everybody remembers.
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