Great teachers self-assess. Poor teachers change nothing.
Test yourself. Is your teaching solid? Don’t take for granted that students are learning. Give yourself a regular check up. Great teachers learn. They learn about their pupils. They understand their classroom. They make it better. Great teachers become a better educator every day.
I can tell a great teacher with one question.
“What is the next thing you want to do in your classroom?”
The great ones will immediately talk about the lessons that didn’t work. They’ll share their student’s struggles. They’ll reveal their weaknesses as a teacher. By listening to them, you might be tempted to think that they are an ineffective teacher. You’d be wrong.
Ineffective teachers are some of the most self-confident ones you’ll meet. They have few things they’d change. So, they languish in mediocrity.
Effective teachers are always improving, so they’re always setting their sights on new goals. They are always leveling up and trying new things.
8 Ways to Become a Better Educator Every Day
1. Take the time to reflect.
Journal. Write down areas of weakness. Brainstorm ways to improve. Good practices become best practices with reflection.
2. Ask your students.
Dean Shareski asks his students to give him feedback on each assignment. You can get student feedback at any point in the year. Capture all feedback in the journal where you’ll reflect. (Dean also learns a great deal from their self-assessment, even if it is more questions.)
3. Look at your results.
Administrators don’t like surprises. Good teachers don’t like them either. When your class average drops rapidly — you should be figuring out why. Ask questions. Look at what you did. Figure out what students don’t know.
4. Know who you want to be.
Great teachers make a “to be” list before making a “to do” list. Examine your values. Examine your behavior. How do you line up? What can you do to improve?
5. Know who you don’t want to be.
You can reboot any day you choose. Most teachers have a bad day sometimes.
Great teachers never make bad days a habit. Yelling. A lesson plan that failed. A disciplinary problem. It is your classroom. It is your determination to act that will make it better. Your job is to know when you’re not measuring up. Take action.
6. Seek answers, don’t find fault.
You can take action. Improve your classroom. I had a class one year that became chatty in March. They would not quiet down. I told them that we’d reboot tomorrow with a new seating chart. (UK Teacher Tom Bennett gets the credit for helping me realize this.)
Although students were not happy about their new seats at first, I reminded them that we were there to learn. I’d rather be happy with learning than have students happy with me. With a new seating chart, we picked up the pace. In the end, we were all happier because we were making progress. And we made great strides.
7. Choose to change.
In this podcast, Michael Hyatt talks about goals. He said that goals should not be inside your comfort zone, but in your discomfort zone. He also mentioned staying out of the “delusional zone.”
Greatness lies outside our comfort zone. But you’re delusional if you think there’s a perfect classroom. Yours is not. Mine is not. But the risk is usually not that we shoot too high. The problem is that some teachers don’t aim to change at all.
8. Face Your Fears
I love what teacher Jon Smith says,
“As teachers, we have to not be fearful of what could happen but focus on what this idea could become.”
I’ve heard that FEAR stands for “False Evidence Appearing Real.” We fear change and trying new things, but we shouldn’t. Instead, we should fear complacency. We should fear a mindset that refuses to change. Because when we refuse to change, we refuse to learn. We give up our role as a lead learner when we refuse to change.
The kids in our room are fearful every day because they are asked to learn every day. They have to see us learning too!
Grow, Don’t Rot.
Some teachers get tired. They think that it is easier to stay the same than to change. If you think you can stay the same, that is a lie. You can’t. You’re either getting better or getting worse. You can’t stay the same. It isn’t possible. Nature abhors a vacuum. In the South we say,
”When you’re green, you’re growing. When you’re ripe, you rot.”
Don’t rot, dear friends. Grow.
Growth is a slow, steady thing. When you learn and apply a little bit consistently, you look back and realize what a big difference it has made. Become a better educator every day. When you do, it means that you’ll be an incredible teacher after a pretty short period. All that growth adds up!
One thing is sure: to not grow is to die slowly. Level up a little bit every day. Your students will be glad you did.