Being a great teacher is easy. All you have to do is focus on doing what is best for the student. Being an extraordinary teacher can be a bit more difficult, because it will take more effort, time, and dedication. Here are examples of ways of how you can be an extraordinary teacher.
I’m Perfect - If you’re a new teacher, don’t make the mistake of telling your kids about any of your faults – for example, my friend’s son’s teacher told the class that she has ADD. Kids will go home and tell their parents that, and right off the bat, your respect level drops. Give your students the impression that you are perfect – you know everything – and that they are lucky to have been enrolled in the class of such an amazing teacher. If this is your first year of teaching, don’t let your kids know that. They will naturally lose a bit of respect for you. You don’t have to lie. When they ask, just tell them that this is your first year at THAT particular school. Then change the subject. Respect is everything in a class. Don’t give your students the opportunity to lose any respect for you. It will make things easier for you.
No Yelling - I learned early in my career that yelling doesn’t work. It only serves to show your students that you can be flustered. When you raise your voice in anger or frustration, the students win. I have had many problem students in my class over the years. I have some now, but I never raise my voice in frustration. If the class is too loud, I cross my arms and wait. Once the class settles down, I continue. There will be times when the students will take longer than I expect to settle down. It’s in those times when I’ll start calling individual names. I’ll say, “Johnny,” and wait till I get his attention, “We’re waiting for you.” Most of the time the students will notice me waiting, and they’ll start with the “shhhhhh.” There will be, however, those rare times when I will raise my voice, but they are what I call “Strategic Detonations.” I,and not the students, determine when I will yell, and when I yell, it is to make a very important point. It happens maybe twice the whole year – sometimes never. If a teacher raises his/her voice on a regular basis, eventually the students become numb to it, and it will no longer have an effect. There will be times when the students will cause you to be flustered. This is an important element of classroom management. Do everything you can to keep from raising your voice. Wait till the students leave, – then scream.
Bring it to Life - This is something that I tell my student teachers right away. When you're teaching anything, you will keep the attention of your students longer if you mix in a story or two. I was giving a lecture recently about jury trials and how under the Bill of Rights, we are guaranteed that right. Normally that's a pretty boring part of my curriculum, but I threw in a story about how my mom was part of a jury where she was the only hold out and they almost declared a hung jury. What happened was that the students were following the story, and connected the story with the concept of our right to jury trials. Kids like stories. Why do kids like stories? Because we all like stories. Storytelling is a skill. You'll need to learn the skill, but after some lessons and practice, you'll be holding their attention even in the most boring of lessons
Do It Yourself - I NEVER rely on textbook-created worksheets or tests. The people who wrote the textbook don't know my kids. I do. That is why my tests and worksheets are specifically designed for my students. It's easier to use pre-created assessments, but you want to do what is best for the student, not what is best for you. Create your own tests and worksheets based on the levels of your students. You may have to create different versions of the same assessment, but your students will find more success when the assignments are created specifically for them.
The Early Bird - Don't be late. It shows that you don't value what you do. Also, arriving early gives you more time to prepare. Teachers who arrive just barely on time typically don't have the time to make their lessons remarkable in any way.
Come On In - When the bell rings for the students to enter the room, it's a good sign when the teacher is there at the door welcoming them with a smile. Too many times we're rushing around, and the kids enter while we're getting ready for class, and it makes it seem that we're not prepared. That's the beginning of disrespect. Make it a habit to show your students that you're ready to have a great time in class by standing by the door when they walk in.
Change it up - Always look for new ways to teach an old lesson. Anybody can teach from the book. A great teacher will take the lesson, and create a fun and creative way to engage the students. The only thing is that with anything, a fun activity will lose its novelty soon. I generally give an activity a life span of three days. After using the activity three times, the students don't see it as fun anymore, and it will lose it’s effect. It depends on the activity, however. If you give out candy, kids seem to like those activities more.
Don’t’ Be Surprised - Make your assignments advanced for your students – they'll surprise you. - I always tell my student teachers to make the assignments a little tougher than they assume the students can handle. Most of the times, the students will meet the challenge. Sometimes they'll struggle, but struggling is good. We learn more when we struggle.
Losing Battle - Stay away from sarcasm. Trying to out-insult a student will only lead to problems. Students don't know how to say, “Good one teacher,” and walk away. They will want to win, and since you're the one with the quicker wit, their only option is to go over the line, talking about your weight or complexion or other out of bounds area, and if you let them get away with that, then you're opening yourself up to other students doing the same. It's better not to get started.
I’m Not Your Friend - This is one lesson that new teachers have a tough time learning. We all want to be connected with the students. We want them to trust us and want to see us as their friend, but it's important to create that separation between student and teacher early and maintain it throughout the year. If not, you're going to have a hard time implementing any kind of discipline program in your class. With all the new ways to keep in touch with friends, like Facebook, Myspace, Twitter,and others, you will get a lot of requests to be on their "friend" list. Don't do it, at least not right away. I get many Facebook friends requests from current and former students. As of this writing, I have 96 pending friend requests. I tell my students in the beginning, that I will not be their friends on Facebook until they've been out of my class for two years. If after two years, they still want me to be on their friends list, then I'll accept their request. Even then, I think twice about it, especially if the student was memorable for the wrong reasons. You have to maintain that "professional distance." It's a tough thing to do for new teachers, but trust me, it will make all the difference in the world when it comes to discipline. You can still create a connection with your students, but it has to remain a teacher-student connection.
Outdoor Classroom – If you get a chance, take your students outside. You obviously can't do this everyday, but once a month or more frequently, take the class outside for the lesson. I like my Lewis and Clark lesson, because we get to pretend we are the Corps of Discovery, exploring the strange land that is our school. Students need to know that learning doesn't always take place on the classroom, and it provides a nice change of pace for the kids. Just remember to tell them before you leave the classroom where and when they are to meet to come back to class.
Adding Passion - Include your hobbies or passion into your lessons. If you are into horses or sewing or hot rod cars, try and incorporate that into your lessons. For example, I have always liked writing poems. I can also play the piano and guitar, so what I’ve done is write little silly songs about my content – history. I just finished writing a rap about the events leading up to the American Revolution. It was a little hokey and undignified, but the kids loved it. It made the lesson stand out in their minds. What happens is that the passion you feel about a hobby shows in your lesson, and that excitement is contagious. The kids will get excited about the lesson. Plus, you will enjoy it a lot more as well. Here’s the link to the rap. Don’t laugh.
Don't Let Them Off the Hook - When I call on a student to answer a question, and he/she doesn't know the answer, the temptation is to let the student off the hook and ask another student. I've learned that I can make that uncomfortable moment a learning experience for that student. You have to be delicate about it, but don't let the student off the hook. Force them to take guess. Encourage them to try and answer the question. Remind them that they know the answer. If they get it wrong, say, "good try," and move on. You want to keep it as stress-free as possible, but a little stress can be good. If they get it right, make a big deal about it.