Teaching is a popular career for many reasons, but having the opportunity to enrich the lives of young people is one of the most compelling reasons to become a teacher.
Whether you teach kindergarten, elementary school students, middle schoolers or high school pupils, helping them to learn new skills, understand the world around them and develop a lifelong love of learning is one of the most enriching and rewarding experiences out there.
Of course, everyone wants to excel in their chosen career and teachers are no different. By keeping your personal and professional development at the forefront of your mind, you can continue to develop your own expertise as you progress in your role. Furthermore, developing your skills will help you to become an even better educator and a more effective teacher.
1. Be a student
In a traditional classroom setting, the teacher retains control and students take on a passive role. However, switching things up and letting your students take the lead can be beneficial for them and you. Your students will have the opportunity to learn new skills and leadership if you give them the opportunity to teach the rest of the class. At the same time, you can refresh your memories of being a student, and gain an insight into what grabs your attention and what doesn’t.
Try splitting your students into groups and giving them a topic to present. With five or ten minutes blocks each, you can give everyone the opportunity to take a leading role, and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to learn from one another.
2. Involve parents and guardians
Working in conjunction with parents and guardians can create a more symbiotic approach to a child’s education, and it can be beneficial for teacher development too. Inviting parents to volunteer in the classroom or at extra-curricular activities will ensure the school community has the practical support it needs to thrive, and teachers can gain access to the crucial help and support they need.
In addition to this, assigning family-based projects or encouraging parents to take part in specific events can help to foster a sense of community and belonging. When parents and guardians take a more active role in their child’s schooling, it can have a positive effect on behavior, effort, and attainment, as well as helping to create a happier learning environment.
3. Incorporate more play
Play can be a great way to relax and de-stress, but it also provides valuable learning opportunities. Whilst younger students may struggle to sit and concentrate for long periods of time, they can continue learning through play, without the need for consistent concentration. If you don’t already incorporate play in your day-to-day school activities, try to carve out a specific time and add play into the timetable.
If your school has dedicated play areas or learning centers, be sure to make the most of them. If you plan on using them in lesson time, you may need to book in advance. Liaise with the relevant member of staff and book your class some time in the designated area. Alternatively, if you don’t have a specific play area, access some sports equipment and create your own. Letting younger children play and be active helps them to de-stress, and it’s easy to find games which incorporate your learning aims and objectives.
4. Take time out for training
All teachers should undertake career development training, so make sure you take the time to do this. Whether it involves residential trips, face-to-face training or online courses, your career development is essential to your success and happiness. Of course, the more training and support you receive, the more effective you can be in the classroom too.
Whilst it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day demands of teaching, ensure your own needs are being met. If in-house training isn’t provided, speak to your line manager or school administrators about training opportunities and funding. There may be scope for school-wide training, so you and your colleagues could benefit from team-building exercises, community-led training, and bespoke learning programs.
5. Use more tech
Bringing tech into the classroom can be a valuable experience for teachers and students, so it’s certainly something you should consider. If your school already offers access to equipment, such as tablets or laptops, try to find new ways to incorporate these into your lessons.
Alternatively, if you don’t have access to school-funded tech equipment, ask if you can bring your own equipment with you into the classroom. If you have a tablet, for example, it’s easy to display it on to a television screen, so that the whole class can see it.
6. Create a blog
Giving yourself an online presence and an outlet can work wonders for your development as a teacher. Even joining teaching-related online forums and connecting with other educators can be a great way of developing your skills and building professional relationships.
Of course, you must be mindful not to post anything about any of your students or any identifying information about your colleagues or your place of work. If you want to maintain your privacy, simply choose a random username and ensure you stay anonymous.
7. Practice mindfulness
Being a teacher can be chaotic and stressful, so you’ll need to find a way to calm your mind and relax. Mindfulness is a great way to do this, because it can be practiced anywhere, for any amount of time. Being mindful enables you to focus completely on what you’re doing in that particular moment, whether it’s writing an email, relaxing or writing a lesson plan.
If you find you’re constantly hopping between tasks or struggling to concentrate on one thing, mindfulness can help to minimize your stress levels and ensure you complete one task before moving on to the next.
Try to incorporate mindfulness at various points throughout the day, such as:
- When you first awaken
- Before you begin your first class
- After lunch, before afternoon classes begin
- At the end of the school day
- When you arrive home
- Before you fall asleep
8. Build relationships with colleagues
If you can forge strong professional relationships with your colleagues, you can benefit from having a supportive working environment. When you collaborate with colleagues you can learn from one another, which can be immeasurably helpful in terms of professional development. Whether you’re mentored by a more experienced teacher or pick up on new techniques and strategies from newly-qualified teachers, working well with your colleagues will bring a whole host of rewards.
Teachers can have extremely stressful working lives, and your colleagues will understand exactly what you’re going through when you have a bad day. Whilst you may not be friendly with everyone on your team, it is important to have a good working relationship with those around you.
9. Avoid burnout
Burnout can happen to employees of any industry but it’s particularly common among teachers. With high targets, limited resources and an array of issues to deal with, it’s not surprising that teachers experience a significant amount of stress. When burnout occurs, however, it can have a devastating impact on your physical and mental health, and it may be enough for you to walk away from teaching altogether.
To prevent this from happening, make sure you take enough time to relax property when you’re not at work and switch off when you’re at home with your family. Be confident enough to ask for professional support when you need it and know when things are getting on top of you. Teachers tend to be caring and compassionate, but this doesn’t always extend to themselves. Whilst you may make time for students, colleagues and family members, ensure you make time for yourself too.
10. Learn from your experiences
With so much to do and very little time to do it in, the days can pass in a blur. With one week stretching into the next, an entire term can be over before you know it. However, taking the time to reflect on each lesson can be a valuable way of enhancing your teaching style and developing your career.
Writing a journal can be a great way to achieve this. Write in longhand, make bullet points or take notes on your smartphone or tablet; whatever works best for you. With a written log of how your lessons are going, you’ll have something to look back on and compare your performance to. It may not be easy to see patterns emerging when you’re in the moment, but when you can look back on your journal and take the time to reflect, you may notice patterns of behavior which could be modified or enhanced in some way.
Self-reflection may not be the easiest task, but it is one of the most effective ways of developing your skills. When you’re able to assess your own performance and identify areas you want to improve, you’ll have a sure-fire way of honing your talents and developing your skills as a teacher.