Friday, January 21, 2022

Super easy teacher hacks!

 This is purely for SEO in case a young teacher is randomly searching the Google. I haven't posted here in years, and I haven't been a classroom teacher in over ten years! However, I've continued working in education, including substitute teaching in the Portland, OR area for at least four years (maybe five? I can't math). I still have my teacher voice and I still refuse to speak to the group if kids are talking. (I also still instinctively raise my hand with my old quiet signal!)

Here are a few key things I have learned in my nearly two decades working in and around schools. These are just small tweaks of language and intention that don't take any actual learning, just rethinking. 

I hear newer teachers make these mistakes all the time and it's all I can do to keep my mouth shut. :) So learn from someone who's been around a bit and has learned some lessons for you. 


I'll start with a big one. My first year teaching, I complained to my mentor that the kids never listened to me. She said, "Well, they don't have to--you always repeat yourself." 

DUDE, that blew my mind and it has stuck with me ever since. It's so true. If you give a direction ten times, kids know they don't have to listen the first or even third time, because you'll just keep saying it. So stop repeating everything! Teach them to listen to you. 


So here's what I learned to do to avoid repeating myself eighteen thousand times a day:

Me: Alright class, open to page 203. What page, everyone? {I'm writing a giant 203 on the board as I do this, and then pointing to it.}

Class, in unison: 203 

This way, kids who were spacing out when I said it, might hear the group say it loudly together. AND OR they can look with their eyes if their ears were momentarily out of commission. 

Inevitably, a kid: What page? 

Me: {silently pointing to the number on the board}

This combination worked a treat at least 95% of the time. 

I am a stubborn beast and just refused to repeat. I think the kids learned that pretty quickly. 


Another huge but really subtle revelation that someone told me once early on (it might have been the same person, but I can't remember anymore). Never tell students, "I want you to... [take out your books, work on this project, turn to your neighbor, etc]." 

One, that makes it all about *you.* Two, there are always kids who will instinctively rebel against that because it's YOU telling them what to do. 

Instead, make it  a more active 'you' statement, or make it an imperative statement. "Next, you will take out your book." "Now, turn to your partner." 


This one I figured out as a sub a few years ago and IT IS GOLD I TELL YOU. When it's time for a transition (go to the carpet, get your coats, line up for recess, etc), if you give them an open-ended directive, they will dilly-dally, wander, chitchat, ignore you. 

However! Make it a countdown and they will get to scooting. So I say something like, "Okay, we will move to the carpet now. Can you do it in twenty seconds? Go! One, two, three..." Or, "Okay, everybody take a seat in five, four, three..." 


The kids know exactly what to do, they aren't mad or cranky about it, it lights an easy fire under them, like a super easy challenge. And it works every dang time. 


If you happen to find this: good luck! Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!