By Teachers, For Teachers
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Teachers are relentlessly self-evaluative. Nearly each day we leave our schools asking, “Did my teaching strategies make a difference today?” or “Did I waste students’ time?” Our good days make us feel on top of the world, briefly; our bad days linger with us like the humidity after a storm.
How do you know if you’re doing a good job or not? Take a look at these telltale clues of effective teaching strategies to see which seem to describe you best:
You Enjoy Your Work. No matter how deep into the trenches you get, the next morning you gladly roll up your sleeves and delve in again. You actually extract a great deal of pleasure from interacting with students, sharing information, and developing relationships. You have a positive attitude and feel happy when you’re “doing your thing.” And your classroom notices this contagious outlook.
Students Imitate You. Students recognize your better qualities and attempt to emulate them. Not only do you share solid academic content with them, but your positive, hardworking character gives them a glimpse of a mature, adult professional. Without realizing it, students become a little more like you, and that makes the world a better place.
You Plant Seeds. Wheat doesn’t grow in a month, and corn isn’t ready to harvest early in the year. Growing something takes time, and often it takes multiple influences to get the product just right. You feel confident that your work is not the end result, but that you are a seed-planter who instills long-term skills, values, and habits into your classroom. You don’t have to see the results yourself—you know they will blossom in the years ahead.
You’re an Expert on Your Subject. You know your material cold. You think about it when you wake up and when you go to sleep. Any question a student challenges you with, you can answer. You adapt to the unexpected twist in a class discussion. You provide additional information at a moment’s notice. You love it, and enjoy working every year to furthering your mastery.
You Experiment and Take Risks with Your Teaching Strategies. You know that the playbook is only a list of recommendations, not a set of rules. When you look at the field, you’re able to call an audible and try something you haven’t done before. You’re confident enough to step out and take a risk with a lesson or a student to get the job done. You don’t rely solely on routine— you also allow your instinct to get into the game.
You Give Authentic Feedback. Regardless of what kind of work you’ve received from your students, you take your time to diligently provide each individual with timely and accurate feedback. Without overpraising or overcriticizing, you say exactly what needs to be said in order for your students to grow effectively.
You’re Reflective. The very fact that “I might be a bad teacher” crosses your mind means that you’re better than you think. Effective teachers are reflective individuals who consistently think through the value of any given activity and nimbly adapt themselves to new methods based on their findings. It’s a delicate balance—you’re not too confident to refuse to change, yet confident enough to critique and adjust. You never stop learning and are your own greatest encourager.
You Feel Like More Than a Teacher. If you could just teach, your job would be simple. Even boring. Instead, you probably feel that in addition to being a teacher, you’re a counselor, disciplinarian, parent, coach, mentor, and role model. A portion of your time is dedicated to molding a classroom full of strong students, but the rest of your time is dedicated to making them strong people.
You Welcome Discussions and Debates About Education. You don’t fear someone – like a teacher or parent – offering an opposing point of view regarding education. In fact, you thrive off discussions that allow you to defend your practices while helping you understand alternate perspectives. You understand that education is continually in flux and that solid dialogues will only keep you in tune with the needs of your students and culture.
What are other dead giveaways that you are actually doing a good job? Tell us what you think about what makes an effective teacher in the comments below!
Jordan Catapano is an English teacher at Conant High School in a Chicago suburb. In addition to being National Board Certificated, he also has worked with the Illinois Association of Teachers of English and currently serves as a school board member for a private school. You can follow him on Twitter at @BuffEnglish, or visit his website ACTWritingTips.com.