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On master teachers

posted Feb 19, 2016, 10:29 PM by HSD Principal
Ten Things Master Teachers Do

Annette Breaux

Master teachers—those who have figured out how to get students to do and be their best, how to simplify the complex, how to look forward to their jobs each day, and how to create lasting memories in the hearts and minds of students—once struggled as new teachers, too. The following 10 practices not only helped master teachers over the initial hump of inexperience but also sustained their ongoing success.

1. Ask for help. A sound support system is vital for all teachers. If you are part of a New­ Teacher Induction program, that's ideal. If you have the support of a master teacher or mentor, tap into that person's expertise. Learn from as many teachers as you can both in your school and online, particularly the top­performing teachers. Do not be afraid to ask for assistance, ideas, and information. We're all still learning to teach. Fellow colleagues are always happy to offer their advice and guidance, and they'll look forward to learning from you, too!

2. Avoid negative people at all costs. You're bound to meet one on every faculty. Don't be rude to them. Just don't add fuel to their brightly burning fires. Be kind, but always be on your way to somewhere else when they attempt to suck you into their sinkholes. "Oh, I'd love to chat, but I'm on my way to the restroom before the bell rings. See ya!"

3. Have a classroom management plan and stick to it! You'll need very few additional rules if you establish a plan for common classroom procedures, such as how to enter the room, what to do as soon as students are seated, how to ask permission to speak, how and when to use personal electronic devices, how to pass in papers, and so on. Tell students what you expect, show them how to complete classroom tasks, and then practice, practice, practice.

4. Be the happiest­ looking teacher in the school. This cannot be stressed enough. Students need happy, positive role models in their lives. And students respond more favorably to teachers who appear to love what they are doing. Yet, walk down the hallways of almost any school and you'll meet too many teachers who appear far too serious. Make a concerted effort to appear happy every day. Fake it on your bad days. Make your classroom a cheerful place to be.

5. Convince students you care. The old adage "I don't care how much you know until I know how much you care" is particularly true in the classroom. Get to know your students, and tell them, often, that you care. Even when you're firm with them or doling out a punishment, stress that you care, that you are on their side, and that you will not give up on them, even when they are tempted to give up on themselves.

6. Make lessons fun, meaningful, and doable. Create classroom tasks that are challenging, attainable, and engaging. Notice how this article is written, broken down into 10 simple (not easy, but simple) tasks. Tasks presented in a list format are more likely to seem doable and are easier to relate to. That's how you want to teach your students. Individuals can accomplish almost any task if they view it as important and attainable. It's also fun to succeed and feel like you accomplished something. Fun doesn't always have to involve games, though it certainly can. Just plan lessons that are challenging without being overwhelming. And when games are appropriate, by all means, let them play!

7. Avoid power struggles with students. They are futile and harmful, often breeding defiance and never leading to improved behavior. Don't allow students to push your buttons. Students need to think you don't even have buttons.

When a student attempts to engage you in a power struggle, simply speak softly and refuse to fight back. Say, "I can see you're upset. We'll talk about it when you calm down." Then allow for a cooling ­off period. Vow never to lose your cool with a student, no matter what. Keep this thought in mind: "I can't control what others do, but I can always be in control of myself."

8. Use social media appropriately. Do not avoid using social media. It's a treasure trove of learning, connecting, and collaborating. But DO avoid abusing social media. Do not post anything on a social media site that you would feel uncomfortable posting if your principal and your students' parents were watching over your shoulder. An excellent New Teacher Chat (founded by Lisa Dabbs) takes place every Wednesday night from 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. eastern time on Twitter, providing a supportive space where new and experienced teachers can share their insights and resources. To participate, use the hashtag #ntchat.

9. Act like a professional. Treat your reputation with the utmost care. Students, coworkers, parents of students, and the community will hold you to a very high standard. Exceed their expectations and don't say or do anything unbecoming of a professional.

10. Communicate with parents, whether they return the gesture or not. Send notes, e­mails, or text messages (when and if appropriate) to keep parents abreast of their children's progress. Make an occasional phone call (and leave a voice message if there's no answer) to tell parents something positive their child did today. Host an online class page so that parents can have access to assignments and the general happenings in your classroom. A parent who has received several positive communications from you is infinitely more likely to work with you to solve an occasional problem than a parent who has never heard from you or who only hears from you when trouble is brewing.

These 10 practices can positively influence your success as a teacher. You'll notice that the most successful teachers in your school are following these rules on a consistent basis. Get busy becoming "that" teacher—the one who makes a difference; is admired by students, parents, and coworkers; and inspires students to meet their fullest potential.

Annette Breaux is the author of the best­selling 101 Answers for New Teachers and Their Mentors, and she has coauthored books
with Harry Wong and Todd Whitaker. Follow her on Twitter @AnnetteBreaux.

ASCD Express, Vol. 10, No. 23. Copyright 2015 by ASCD. All rights reserved. Visit www.ascd.org/ascdexpress.