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How to Be a Successful Teacher

Updated on September 17, 2011

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.

Comments About Successful Teachers

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    • arizonataylor profile image

      arizonataylor 5 years ago from Arizona

      Thank you. You made my day. Teaching is still the best job in the world.

      Best wishes.

    • Greg Horlacher profile image

      Greg Horlacher 5 years ago from Grand Prairie, TX

      I cannot like this enough. My favorite television show of all time is The Wire. The most knowledgeable, wise, and honest cops on the show are referred to by other cops as "real police." You are a real teacher!

    • Irish Commentator profile image

      Irish Commentator 6 years ago from Ireland

      Arizona, Thanks for the fun. You are a serious educator. I believe that 'those who care, don't, and that those who don't care, do.

      Your amusing structure belies a sophistication of the highest order.

      Lets not get too high on self-congratulations however. There is a fundamental requirement to accept feedback, consider it and pose it against personal values and our 'stuff'.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 6 years ago from Canada

      Wow, great hub! I was a teacher for eight years but I am not currently teaching. I found most of this to be true ... it is obviously impossible to please everyone, as you implied, and that does seem to be what is expected.

      Yes, "the hardest job you ever enjoyed" says it perfectly. Teaching itself is an absolutely amazing, rewarding, thrilling career. It's the politics that kill it for some. I walked away from this career, for now, because of a very difficult situation but I miss the kids and the thrills! Thanks for sharing this -- take care!

    • profile image

      lucilou 6 years ago from USA

      You are, unfortunately right on. Teaching in the 21st century is more spoon feeding the ego rather than challenging the brain.

    • lgolden1911 profile image

      lgolden1911 6 years ago

      I'd like being an administrator's even more of a political role than being a teacher. The administrators get the bulk of the complaints, so they have pick and choose their battles with exceptional expertise. There's this fine line of supporting the teachers, the parents, and the students all simultaneously.

      I agree with what you said regarding teachers. When you sit back and look at the different things teachers have to grin and bear despite many things often contradicting one another, it's a wonder why all teachers aren't schizophrenic. However, in addition to adequate education and considerable expertise at consistently and competently conveying it to others, I'd say the best teacher is the one who relentless enhances his or her foresight, courage, and tenacity.

    • arizonataylor profile image

      arizonataylor 6 years ago from Arizona

      Yes, I as teachers we often feel that administration is against us. I was administration, for a brief period of time. Though I was offered a promotion, I refused it and instead decided to return to teaching. There's nothing like teaching, and I missed it so much. Having seen both sides, I have to say that everybody, including both teachers and administrators, would be better off if they realized we're on the same team. While I may shake my head and disagree with administration from time to time, I know that their jobs are very difficult and always result in some form of dissatisfaction from teachers. Being an administrator is like being a politician too. No matter what you do, you can't please everybody. I could have easily written an article entitled "How to Be a Successful Administrator." In fact, I might just do that.

      Best wishes.

    • profile image

      Brian Ellis 6 years ago

      I love Charles James's line ... "What I did was to tell people blandly what management was doing and then they criticised management." Brilliant move.

    • arizonataylor profile image

      arizonataylor 6 years ago from Arizona

      I'm glad you enjoyed it. Even with all of the problems in education, I must admit that I still enjoy it. Best wishes.

    • Brianna P profile image

      Brianna P 6 years ago from Albany, NY

      This was a great hub! It made me giggle to myself a few times because of all the contradictions. It's so true - teachers have to achieve such a delicate balance between all these aspects of teaching. I will share this with my friends.

    • Beata Stasak profile image

      Beata Stasak 6 years ago from Western Australia

      Teaching is a long life commitment that is not very much valued these days so I am very grateful to you for writing such an useful article on this subject full of warm humour and great attitude towards the system we battle every day:)

    • arizonataylor profile image

      arizonataylor 6 years ago from Arizona

      Yes, a good attitude helps a lot. I was hesitant to write this article, because I thought that it might come off as too negative. I actually love teaching and feel that my administration is great. The article is purely for humor only.

    • Charles James profile image

      Charles James 6 years ago from Yorkshire, UK

      When I was a teacher I found I was criticising management too much. My New Year resolution was not to criticise management.

      What I did was to tell people blandly what management was doing and then they criticised management.


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