My Top 7 Teaching Principles

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1. Leave room for your life/family/self.
Education is all about the students. We also have to remember that we first have to make sure that we are physically, emotionally, and psychologically ready to do what we need to do for students. To do the best for our students, we also have to the best for ourselves. Self-care is a principle I teach students and have learned to live by to make sure I am ready for every day of my life. The question I ask is, 'how can I make today a good day?' Optimally, every day I work out, meditate, spend time with my family, and do my morning routine as a part of making my day a good day. On a busy day, I make sure to do three out of four activities. Otherwise, I feel sluggish and depleted. What can you add to your schedule to take care of yourself right now?

2. Get to know your students.
I can not emphasize this enough. Get to know your students. I learned this from my chemistry co-teacher in my first year of teaching. She spent an entire week getting to know students. She learned who worked, who took care of family, couldn't understand, read, or write English. It was a school with mostly Hispanic students, who enjoyed working with others, needed frequent breaks, and needed extra attention. We did not have extensive Individual Education Plans, so her ice breakers, team building activities, and get to know you exercises gave her the information she needed. She was able to earn the student's trust by sharing herself and showing that she cared, so before students had trouble, she had a solution. This teacher was the Lead Teacher in the Science Department, and she was not a very nice teacher, but the students respected her because they believed that she cared.
 
3. Make sure your students know you have high expectations for them.
"Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better." By Maya Angelou. Our job is to make sure students have expectations that work for our classroom and teach students essential life principles. Usually, in class, we develop these expectations as a classroom, so everyone's voice is honored. My only request during the process of writing classroom expectations is that we respect each other. Writing expectations is a lesson I teach that focuses on diversity, human rights, and integrity, so these three supporting ideas of respect are understood. I have learned that you can not assume that students know what words mean or apply them to their lives in education. Think about a student that has never give or was respected.  In that case, you can tell them to be respectful, but unless you tell, model, and show respect every day, that student will never understand because it is not a part of every environment. Every human deserves respect, and it is necessary to educate young minds.

4. Do not compromise your standards.
These standards include personal standards, educational standards, or the students' written expectations. Consistency in teaching standards is essential at the beginning of the school year as you establish classroom expectations. This constant practice makes everything very clear for students. Otherwise, when you send mixed messages, students are confused and more irritated. If you want a calm and educationally conducive classroom, stick to your standards every day, especially in the first four weeks, the students will learn your standards. Uncompromised standards are essential in every grade because student expectations should change as they mature and get closer to graduation.

5. Collaborate with your team
In education, many classes function as clusters of islands in the same school. It is much like living on an island. That island has limited resources, limited ideas, and stuck in one place. Teachers must collaborate at least with their department to make sure that we are not reinventing the wheel. I have found that collaboration creates a more happy work environment because we work as a team to teach different subjects and help each other succeed.

​6. Do your research
Look up what other teachers are doing in your subject. Research can be done with a quick internet source and can save you many hours of lesson planning. We must stay on the cutting edge to give our students an advantage. It is not realistic to think that you are the most creative and innovative teacher for every lesson.
Read Individual Education Plans for each student; it is the law. Staying on top of student needs is an essential step to make sure you can have one lesson for all students instead of realizing that students need special accommodations and have to do the lesson twice.
Review all the data you can get your hands on for the previous year for your students. This step will also save you time and energy throughout the year. If you go into the school year knowing your students' collective strengths and areas of opportunities, you will have the tools needed to help your students succeed. This step is necessary even if your team or leaders do not facilitate data-driven instruction. Trust me. It works with every grade level and ability level.

7. Reflect and adjust
As I move into my 10th year of teaching, I reflect on my first year of teaching. I worked at a charter school in Houston. We had to keep a physical portfolio to write our reflections on the lesson plan, professional developments, certificates, and staff meetings. This charter school was the best start for a new teacher. My leader at the time encouraged us to reflect on our good lessons and our lessons that flopped. These reflections were the best learning tool that I use to develop the most effective lessons throughout the years. I have always taught students with special needs and adapted lessons to meet the students' needs. I taught second through twelfth grades and young adult students and sometimes four grades in one self-contained classroom throughout the years. The skill of reflection has always been a way for me to learn through my experiences and keep focused on student needs.

 

Reference:

Angelou, M. (n.d.). Maya Angelou Quotes. Good Reads. 

          Quote by Maya Angelou: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then...” (goodreads.com)