In my previous article I shared five focus areas that new and experienced teachers need to be focusing on if they’re going to succeed when school starts up again. They are:
- Mastering the delivery of both in-person and remote instruction.
- Creating engaging, differentiated lessons to reach all learning styles.
- Developing a systematic approach to assessment and to ensure student accountability.
- Supporting your students’ social-emotional needs and development, while growing your mindset and confidence to succeed.
- Crafting a solid plan for the 1st 90 days, including relationship-building and a clear, consistent approach to classroom management.
In that essay, I also unpacked the first three items in detail. In this article, I will discuss the final two components for a successful year of teaching, regardless of the context in which it occurs.
A critical “non-academic” area that teachers must master is their ability to teach and support students’ social-emotional needs and development, while growing their mindset and confidence to succeed. Let’s focus on the latter, our mindsets and the role they play in our success.
In her bestselling book Mindset: The New Psychology Of Success, Stanford Professor Carol Dweck talks about people’s mindsets with regards to their ability to perform new tasks. She describes people who stay squarely in their comfort zones and others who venture well beyond them. Dweck labeled these mindsets as “fixed” and “growth,” respectively.
A fixed mindset refers to the belief that skill and capacity are fundamentally attached to a person’s genetic composition. Either you “have it” and are good at it, or you’re not. This applies to everything from academics (“I’m not much of a math guy”) to business and social situations (“I don’t know marketing,”) as well as music, athletics, and more.
Those with growth mindsets, on the other hand, tend to believe that skills can be learned, at least to some degree of proficiency. They maintain that success depends mainly on one’s willingness to learn, practice, and pursue their goals. They continuously strive to learn new things and to develop new capabilities. They do so in part because of their great drive to succeed. But they also possess a deep sense that they can stretch their inborn talents if they are willing to make the effort.
The last piece is to craft a solid plan for the 1st 90 days, including relationship-building and a clear, consistent approach to classroom management. As teachers, we know that there is more to our jobs than sharing content and enhancing student skills. We understand intuitively that in order to fully reach our students we need to connect with them and create the right atmosphere for learning.
Below is a list of strategies that can help you establish healthy, meaningful relationships with your students and interact in a manner that is healthy and fulfilling.
- Set the proper tone. Find ways with which to positively engage students from the outset. Greet them as they enter the room with a “good morning” and a high-five. Smile when you see them and let them know that you’re happy that they’re there. Convey the message that you expect a great day from them and anticipate their success.
- Create a healthy learning environment. One of the most powerful educational quotes that I have ever read has nothing to do with teaching. The author, former teacher and child psychologist Dr. Haim Ginott, writes below about the central role that teachers play in making the classroom’s “weather”:
“I’ve come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or de-humanized.”
The classroom atmosphere is directly impacted by the approach and attitude of the almighty teacher. How we use that power can have a great impact on student learning and self-esteem. It is imperative that we comprehend the full impact of the tremendous power invested in us. Use your authority judiciously and proactively find ways with which to create a classroom atmosphere that promotes learning and excitement.
- Praise early, praise often. If you wish to be able to demand from your students and offer criticism where appropriate, it is imperative for students to know that you are solely motivated by a strong desire to do what is in their best interests. As the leadership expert John C. Maxwell has famously said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
- Monitor their progress. Take time to talk privately with each student once the year begins. Find out about their successes as well as their challenges. Ask how you can be of assistance in making their year a success and let them know that you are always available to talk.
- Let them know that they’re missed. If a student is absent for more than one day due to presumed illness, give them a call. This can be done privately, or with the class present (your students will love the opportunity to call their absent friends from within the classroom). Calling these students will let them know that they are missed (research says that it will also reduce student absenteeism), and that your classroom is simply not the same without them.
Of course, there are many other techniques that we could use and qualities that we could demonstrate that would help us connect better with our students. My suggestion is that you identify what you are already doing and build from existing strengths. The next step would be to think about something else that you could do to deepen the connection so you can maximize your influence on the lives of the young men and women who have been entrusted to you.
Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, is an executive coach who helps busy leaders be more productive so that they can scale profits with less stress and get home at a decent hour. For a free, no obligation consultation, please call 212.470.6139 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Buy his leadership book, “Becoming the New Boss”, on Amazon. Download his free productivity blueprint at ImpactfulCoaching.com/ Productivity-Blueprint.
Dr. Naphtali Hoff will be co-hosting a Back to School Boot Camp to help new (and veteran) teachers and those who support them hit the ground running in the fall and enjoy a successful school year. To learn more about the Boot Camp and to register, visit https://www.impactfulcoaching.com/btsbc.