I’m about to start year 13 of my teaching career. Crazy right? I’m getting new furniture and so I’ve been trying to clean out my classroom even though I don’t go back until September. I’ve been purging a ton of junk: outdated student samples and curriculum binders I’ve been hanging on to for years. Filtering through them left me thinking how much I’ve grown in my years of teaching. I wanted share some of the most important things that helped me become a better teacher.
1. Finding a Methodology I’m Passionate About
2. Becoming a CHAMPion of Classroom Management
3. Finally Planning Effective Lessons
Fast forward 13 years. Now I’m am an OCD type of lesson planner to the extent that I often have 2-3 weeks of lessons planned out in advance. After being so stressed out for years, I had a complete pendulum swing. The quality of my professional life, my sanity, and of my teaching is so much better.
I started out using a super old-school lesson planning book that I just gave up this past school year because I could never find a digital system that worked for me. I’m pretty tech savvy, so my colleagues would audibly scoff at my lesson planning book. Enter Planbook.com. No, I don’t work for them or get any sort of kickback, but I LOVE their lesson planning system. You can set it up any way you want, link to or upload files, and access it from anywhere, including the app on my phone. It costs a whopping $12 a year, but you can try it for a month for free.
It’s amazing how much better my teaching is now that I carefully plan out each day with a warm-up, various learning activities, a wrap-up. Plus, I constantly focus how these activities are going to help students achieve learning goals and the skills necessary to rock an IPA. It takes practice and patience and I’m definitely still improving, but the time spent lesson planning effective lessons is key. This isn’t news to you as we all learn this in undergrad, but I learned the hard way.
4. Finding a PLN (Professional Learning Network) I Love
To avoid working in a vacuum, I made it a priority to find a PLN (professional learning network) where I could learn new things, bounce ideas off of others, and grow as an educator.
I personally prefer Facebook groups (Spanish Teachers in the US is my favorite) and checking out different blogs that inspire me. Our own Catharyn Crane (AKA Sol Azúcar) wrote an awesome post about how to collaborate with Spanish teachers on social media that you should check out if you need a PLN too!
If you haven’t already, find your digital tribe. My biggest professional fear is becoming out of touch with current trends in WL methodology so I want to immerse myself in current best practices and I know you do, too.
5. Learning How To Learn From My Students
When students are doing well, we pat ourselves on the back and congratulate ourselves on a job well done, but learning how to help our kids when they’re struggling is a whole different story.
There are so many ways to get feedback from students, but it’s important to find a method that works for you. I find formative assessment (exit slips, think-pair-shares, polls, etc.) to be particularly helpful and one of the least intimidating ways for students to tell us what we’re doing well and when they need more support.
Another option is to give explicit anonymous surveys, which I was once required to give as part of my evaluation. Some comments stung, but others were unexpected and helpful. If you’ve never given an end-of-term survey, I highly recommend it as you might learn a lot about how your students perceive you.