How to be a better teacher: 18 ideas from students, Part 3

October 9, 2015 , In: TEACH
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If you’ve already read Part 1 and Part 2, I hope you have been both encouraged and challenged! If you haven’t yet, starting from the beginning is always a good idea.

Thank you so much to those of you who have messaged me about how the articles have been inspiring and helpful. I’m thrilled by each positive feedback and I’ve been especially delighted to hear that the ideas apply not only in my primary classroom context but also to other teachers – those teaching in secondary, tertiary, even leaders in different fields and of course, parents!

Here we are! The final seven tips on being a better teacher, as shared by children.

12. Have courage

I love that the definition of courage is in the context of difficulty, danger and pain. There can be no courage where there are no challenges and what classroom is without them? Can there be growth without pain?

Have courage in your planning – are there difficult topics? Face them with the goal of making your students think, engage, and grow.

Have courage in your speaking – do you need to speak the truth in love? Do so. I like to tell my students that I’m always for them, not against them, even when what I have to say is not what they want to hear.

Have courage in letting go – you are not the source of all wisdom and knowledge. God is. Let your kids know that you do not know everything but like them, you rely on God’s Word, wisdom and grace.

13. Believe in yourself

No, you don’t always make the best decisions. You might have days when you think another teacher can do a better job taking your class. But you have been chosen to be where you are, with the children in your care. That is huge.

Where I work, we are often lovingly reminded that each one of us has been an answer to prayer – from the application process through to interviews. So, believe in yourself, not with an inflated sense of your skills, but in humility, knowing the God who has called you is the one to equip you too.

14. Believe in your students

How precious that a child would articulate this. How do we show we believe in our students? Do we allow them to fail but keep trying? Or are we upset and frustrated when they don’t get it after a few go’s?

Tell your students you believe in them and show them you mean it by giving them time to explore concepts, time to practice, and when needed, a chance to start again.

Your students will also know you believe in them when you set high yet realistic expectations that they can work towards. You may have heard of ‘grit’ making its rounds as a new buzz word in education, Angela Watson, in explaining what it really means starts with ‘Real grit is about high expectations’.

15. Give less homework

Here’s a tricky one! Chances are, you have a team or school policy on homework so it might not really be up to you to give more or less homework. Remembering points 12 and 13, however, if you believe that your homework needs changes, let your team know your well-considered thoughts. If you can’t articulate what your school’s purpose is in setting homework, ask.

At my school, we do it for the following reasons: practice discipline, consolidation and parent involvement. Anything more may not be necessary. And you know what they say, less is more!

16. Be more caring

There are many ways you can do this – listen more, observe, and understand are the first things that come to mind. Listen to your students’ stories, observe how they are going constantly, understand their frustrations, being honest that you too, don’t always get it right.

Another way I’ve learnt to care this year is by giving my students handwritten notes. Having the intention of writing each one of them personal notes meant I was attuned when they did something lovely – cared for someone else, made the class laugh, shared a thoughtful insight – anything that made me grateful that they’re part of our class. And I told them as much.

I did this from the very start of the year and I believe that it helped establish our relationships. To this day, they have their little notes, now a bit worn, sticky-taped onto their desks or tubs and it makes my heart happy when they re-read it quietly with a smile.

17. Ask if we need help

Sometimes when I need help, the last thing I want to do is ask even though I really wish someone would offer. Is it just me?

Students (and I) should know to ask for help but wouldn’t it be nice if we at times, just offer and ask? You might have students who are afraid to say they don’t know or students who get frustrated at themselves easily. Ask if they need help and go back to ideas 11 and 14.

18. Be godly

As I looked through all the answers on the whiteboard, I thought, wow, that’s a long and challenging list. Let’s be honest, we can’t do all of the above in our own strength.

So it’s fitting that we end with this final tip from a student, ‘Be godly’.

Let’s stay close to the God we serve, let’s read His Word daily and read it so much that we live it and speak it; let’s encourage one another; keep each other accountable. Let us pray.

I’m currently reading ‘The Spirit of the Disciplines’ by Dallas Willard and it excites me because of its courageous and biblical list of ways or disciplines on how to actually be more like Jesus. Watch this space for my reflections on the book to encourage and direct us in our desire to be more Christlike.

I pray that you have been encouraged and challenged by these 18 ideas on how to be a better teacher.

I pray that your teaching practices and beliefs are better because of them.

I pray that God grants you His amazing grace that’s needed in all of life.

What would your students say if you asked them how teachers could be better?

Ask them and find out! I’d love to hear from you.

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Rachel Herweynen

Teacher & Traveller

Alive because of Jesus - a teacher, traveller and wife of a photographer. I write to learn, to help and to be thankful.

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