October 21, 2014

Teaching Tips for Great Teachers

Zen ClassroomOne of our most popular courses is Course 855: What Great Teachers Do. This course provides educators an opportunity to examine their professional practice and to consider ways they can improve. It’s not easy to be introspective and to admit when we can do things better professionally. We commend each and every teacher who has taken this course!

In the text What Great Teachers Do by Todd Whitaker, is a list of the “17 Things That Matter Most.” High School educator Carrie Buss from Lake Orion, Michigan, shares her insights on what matters most to her—examining the things she does well, and listing some areas where she will strive to improve.

Kudos to Carrie, another Learners Edge great teacher!


For this assignment, teachers are asked to pick three things that “matter most” from the list of “17 Things that Matter Most” found in the Whitaker text:

  1. “Great teachers have high expectations for students but even higher expectations for themselves.”

I believe this is one of the items I do best. I have always held high standards for my students, but I pride myself on holding even higher standards for myself. I have always felt that if I want my students to be great, then I have to be great. This is evident in the expectations I hold for behavior and academics. For example, I don’t expect students to have cell phones out, so I don’t have my cell phone out. I lead by example. Also, I expect students to be involved in the class so I expect myself to create highly engaging lessons. In a nutshell, I expect that I perform my job to the best of my ability.

  1. “Great teachers know that they are the variable in the classroom.”

I believe this is another item where I excel. As a teacher, I can control the actions I take and I believe I do this well. I am proud that I have the ability to recognize when I need to change what I am doing in the classroom because it isn’t working. I alter lessons, re-teach concepts in a different manner, and update assignments. All of this puts the responsibility on me and does not place blame on my students for things that don’t go well.

  1. “Great teachers have a plan and purpose for everything they do.”

I believe this is another item where I excel. Nearly every action I make in the classroom is planned and calculated. There is a method and a reason for everything I do in the classroom. From seat assignments, to the concepts I teach and the methods I use, everything is planned. Each day, on my drive home from teaching, I reflect on the day and make adjustments as needed. I believe that thorough planning and preparation are instrumental to student success.


For this assignment, teachers are to list two areas where they seek to improve professionally, and are to include action steps for each.

  1. “When a student misbehaves, great teachers have one goal: to keep that behavior from happening again.”

I chose this item because sometimes I focus on punishing a misbehaving a student instead of concerning myself with how I can motivate the student to improve.
Steps I will take to improve in this area include:
First, I will discontinue my use of after school detentions with students. This punishment only focuses on getting revenge on the student who misbehaved. It is miserable for the student and most often causes embarrassment and humiliation. Next, I will employ a behavior contract with students on an as need basis. In this manner, the student and I can come to an agreement of how we can reach an appropriate compromise so misbehavior can be prevented in the future. Also, I will not retaliate with sarcasm or belittle a student when they misbehave. I will deal with the matter in private and exhibit self-control on my part. This will demonstrate my respect for the student. Lastly, when a behavioral issue does occur, I will ensure that the issue is resolved prior to their departure so there is not resentment. Mutual respect is the goal.

  1. “Great teachers consistently filter out the negatives that don’t matter and share a positive attitude.”

I chose this item because sometimes I get caught up in the negative comments that occur amongst staff members. Even though I start each year off with a positive outlook, the negativity expressed by others always seems to trickle in. I can take the following steps to improve this:
First, I will use the “things are great” response. When co-workers ask me how things are going, I will no longer share a story of what is bothering me. Rather I will say “things are great.” It is not a lie, for I really enjoy my job. This response will help me not to dwell on negativity and spread it. Next, I will present a positive tone and attitude to my students and other staff members. I have always been told that a smile goes along way. Positivity can be contagious and I will work to spread it. Thirdly, I will create a journal to keep at home. In this journal, I will jot down school related issues that are bothering me. In this manner, I can vent without negatively influencing my colleagues. Lastly, I will join the Morale Committee and work to spread positivity amongst staff members.

What are some qualities that you think make a great teacher? Are there areas that you’d like to focus on improving to be an even better teacher? We would love to hear your thoughts!


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