Be yourself – Don’t be afraid to let your students see the real you. The more ‘yourself’ you are the more your students will connect with you. Don’t try to teach a lesson exactly like you have a seen another teacher teach it – it won’t work. Bring your personality to your classroom, your passions to your content and your humanity to your relationships.
Smile - You will hear some teachers say, 'Don't smile until Easter. Ignore them. What good could come of this? The only possible outcome is alienating your students. So my advice, "Smile everyday to Easter and everyday beyond”. Smiles create more smiles leading to happy, warm learning environments where your students feel safe and nurtured.
Look for the joy – I often make a list of the things that have brought me joy in my classroom throughout the day or across the week. I give thanks for the small things – the laughter I shared with my class, the completion of my to-do-list, the improvement that one kid made in the last assessment, the coffee and conversation shared with a colleague. List them in your head as you wait in traffic on the way home, jot them in your day book or keep a journal. By actively partaking in this practice you will not become disheartened by the pressures of teaching because you a constantly reminding yourself why you do it in the first place.
Remember you teach students not content – Never put content before the students. You will have moments where you feel pressured to keep pushing through a checklist of dot points because of a looming exam, but don’t forget about the kids in front of you. If you feel pressured they will too and ultimately won’t learn at all. If you need to slow it down so that deep thinking can take place, do it. If they want to divert from the path of study to explore an area of interest, let them. If a colleague says, “We don’t have time for that”, tell them you will find time. The kids will thank you in the long run.
Find a connection – Find a connection with each and everyone of your students. The connection doesn’t need to be big, just enough to show you care. For example, if Peter plays basketball on a Thursday evening ask him how his game went as he enters class on Friday; if Michaela watches the X-Factor ask her what she thought of the performances on Sunday night; if Anne loves Justin Bieber play some of his latest music as you pack up the classroom; if John is great with technology ask him to help with your computer. Let them know you see them, hear them and are genuinely interested in them.
Tap into their gifts – Each of your students have talents and gifts (some more obvious then others!). Your job is to ultimately find these gifts and make the most of them. Give them as many opportunities to shine as you can. If you do this, their confidence will grow and they will flourish.
The paperwork doesn't matter – Seriously it doesn’t. Do it when you have to but don’t waste a second on it otherwise. If you work on it constantly it will become all consuming and suck the life out of you, leaving no time for lesson planning or creativity in your classroom.
Sleep – Teaching is exhausting! Make sure you get enough sleep every night to deal with what tomorrow is going to throw at you. You have to be able to think on your feet, do twenty things at once, communicate constantly and do it with a smile on your face, Hence, eight hours sleep is a must!
What advice would you add to this list?