Teachers are humans. They are not infallible. They make mistakes. Even the best teachers. And they learn from their mistakes and become better educators. So before I share the mistakes that I think many teachers make, I want to preface by saying that teaching is one of the toughest jobs on the planet. I have made most of these mistakes, and that is why I am so passionate about writing about them. Also, it is just my opinion that these are mistakes. Since every class and classroom are so different, they may not be a mistake in your classroom.
In my early years teaching, I preferred to keep my students in their seats. It was actually a class rule! That seemed like good classroom management to me. But let’s be real. Kids aren’t made to sit still. They need to move!
Some ideas for getting kids out of their seats include:
- Task Card Scoots
- Brain Breaks
- Reading or Working on the Floor
- Alternative Seating
This is typically a mistake made by new teachers. They are scared that if they discipline, they will be seen as mean and the kids won’t like them. This often leads to a class that isn’t managed and causes undue stress for the teacher and the students.
Here is a truth- Kids want to know that you love them enough to fairly discipline them. This does not mean that you have to be a drill sergeant! Instead, teach your students the class rules and expectations.
Talk about what it will look and sound like when students are following the class rules. Make sure they know how many warnings will be given and what the consequences will be for students who break rules. I also let my students know right from the start that no one is perfect, and there is a good chance they will break a rule at one point or another. I will still love them, but they will receive the consequences. During the first few months of the year, I find myself needing to use my discipline program. I am fair and do exactly what I told the students that I would. Usually, by Christmas, my class is free of any discipline problems. I am very firm, but my students still like me! Don’t be scared!
When we went to school, it was probably perfectly normal to give a worksheet for every skill and subject. Educational research has come so far, and studies consistently show that students need to move, talk, perform, teach, create and experiment to truly solidify their understanding of a topic. I know that worksheets are easy to prep, and I am not saying you shouldn’t ever use them! They are perfect for subs, quick assessments and certain skills. But be brave! Use some interactive notebooks. Do some task card scoots. Provide centers that are hands-on and get students interacting with the assignment. Your students will thank you!
We are teachers. We love our kiddos. And we have a soft spot for those low fliers that need extra time and attention. It is tempting to move at their speed. But we can’t!!! The rest of our kiddos need us to keep the pace moving. Otherwise, they become bored, behavior problems pop up and we never get to all of the standards. I am not suggesting that teaching your lower kiddos is unimportant. But the best thing we can do for our whole class is to go at a healthy speed and then reteach and enrich in our small groups. Keeping a steady pace helps all students to remain engaged.
When we went to school our teachers stood in front of the class and lectured. It was boring! You don’t have to be that teacher! Keep your students engaged by keeping the whole group lesson super short. Then break out into centers and meet with small groups of students to practice the skill. This will allow for great differentiation and so much more fun!
If you need some ideas for using small groups and centers, click on the picture below.
Too many amazing educators are spending their nights and weekends grading stacks of papers. STOP! There is not enough time in the day!
Have students trade and grade some assignments themselves. Send math facts or spelling tests home to be graded by a reliable parent volunteer. Do more performance based assessments that check for understanding rather than giving a grade. Sometimes I just put a problem on the board and watch as students complete it on their white boards. I have a spreadsheet with their names and the skill. If they get it- they get a check mark. Those that don’t- get a reteach. No papers to grade as I am just doing a quick look at their personal white boards. I do the same sort of thing when assessing my interactive notebooks. They do the activities during small group and I just give them a quick look over while they are sitting there.
Grading center work can be very time consuming! I deal with this by giving one center book that lasts for 3-4 weeks rather than new assignments every week. Also, include centers like read to self, games and technology. You can always give participation scores if you really need a grade for every center.
Another novel idea, that some teachers will hate me for suggesting, is to throw away some of the stacks of papers. Not all of them! But throwing away an assignment from time to time won’t hurt anyone.
I know this will sound crazy to some of you- but you should not be the last car at school every day! Or any day! I know that you love your students and you are planning amazing lessons for them. However, your students need you to be balanced and rested. Go home! Be with your family. Enjoy your hobbies! Go to bed early! You will be a better teacher because of it. I promise.
Decide on a reasonable time to leave and stick to it. It means you can’t just hang out gossiping and complaining with your teacher buddies. It means that you are going to need to prioritize your to do list. And it means you won’t get everything done all of the time. But that is okay!
I know that lesson planning can be overwhelming. But the truth is- if you are planning just one week at a time, you are always going to feel behind and overwhelmed. At the start of every quarter (or the end of the previous quarter), I pull out my calendar and start penciling in my math lessons, science units and reading standards. I write in any holiday and I begin to search for the activities I want to plug into those days. Then I send them to be copied or have a parent volunteer copy them for me. Why wait?! This makes me feel ahead of the game! And it doesn’t take long if you do it in batches. Do all of your math centers and then do all of your holiday activities, etc.
If you are needing tips for getting all of the papers and supplies organized, click on the picture below for some tips.
Teachers love to talk. We get up on that stage and perform a monologue. It’s a good monologue. But it’s missing something. The kids should be doing the talking! Students will be more engaged and remember more of the lessons if they are encouraged to do more of the talking. I highly recommend using pair share routines. I personally use the Whole Brain Teaching Teach-Okay procedure. You can learn more about it by watching the video below.
I am not exaggerating when I say that I do 10-15 of these during each of my mini lessons!
When students have some control over their learning, they become much more engaged in the classroom activities. They become more invested in their learning and more independent. That should be the goal! Find ways to allow for student choice each day!
Some ideas include:
- Picking their own seat
- Choosing their own partner or group to work with
- Picking a game from a basket of games that all pertain to the skill they need to practice
- Choosing their own book for read to self time
- Deciding on the order they will complete their centers
- Menus that allow students to choose the prompt or task
Don’t let this list overwhelm you. The greatest teachers are still making mistakes. They are just great because they are consistently looking for ways to improve upon their craft. So choose one area to focus on for the time being. And always know that your students are lucky to have an educator who is still committed to learning and growing!