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Tips for School & District Administrators

5 New School Year Resolutions that will Make You a Better Teacher

By Brian Gatens

The best teachers begin a new school year with a set of resolutions to improve their classroom practice. Like me, they believe there is no standing still in education. We’re either moving toward being better or moving away from it.

What is it about these teachers that make them so great? Perhaps it’s an inside job? Their work ethic gives them confidence, patience with children, and the ability to create caring and hardworking classrooms. Essentially, it comes down to setting high expectations for themselves and finding a way to implement them.

What are some effective new school year resolutions for teachers? Try these:

Be honest with yourself

We all have a personal level of performance. Regardless of where we (or even our formal evaluations) place ourselves, we always have the opportunity to grow.

I recently sat with a 25-year veteran teacher to discuss a recent observation and was impressed with her willingness to listen, take notes, and bring the results of our conference into to her professional practice. She’s highly respected — and not just because of her personality and intelligence. Rather, it’s her relentless focus on growth.

Where do you have to improve? What is your weakest area? What advice would you give yourself?

Be positive about your school and your students

Negativity is a terrible thing. It creeps into the life of a school and erodes all of the hard work. Unfortunately, it’s often a self-inflicted wound.

Don’t get pulled into the bashing of your students, colleagues, or administrators. Instead, take the time to highlight the strong work of your students, the dedication of your colleagues, and the support of parents whenever you can. The school will benefit from such an attitude, and your personal outlook will brighten.

Be kinder

After the school year is done, the homework completed and the tests taken, your students will remember far better how they were treated than what you taught them. Children need to be around adults who are kind to them.

Make a resolution to be more patient and a better listener. Open your classroom up at lunch for the students to come and sit in the presence of a kind adult. There are students in your class right now who need to be near someone who accepts them, listens to them, and offers positive feedback. Nothing is more endearing to children than an adult who is there for them.

Listen more

We live in a culture that encourages us to express ourselves, and far too often we listen only for a moment before we speak. Take the time to create opportunities for your students to speak up about your class and what they are learning.

To bring this alive, carry an old-school stopwatch in your hand and turn it on when you are speaking. You’ll be amazed to see how much time you may spend speaking instead of letting the students speak. Being a listener tells everyone you believe they have something important to say.

Be resolute

It’s difficult to stick with challenging resolutions — that’s why fitness centers are pretty much empty by mid-February. Being resolute and keeping these goals alive will benefit you far more than they will benefit your students. Being honest, staying positive, listening to people and practicing kindness creates opportunities for you to be your very best self.

To keep your goals alive, write them down, post them where they can be seen, and tell other people that they exist. If you’re feeling particularly brave, share them with your students. Let them see what those traits look like when brought to life.

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