Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Advice for Teachers

Having taught college English for almost four years now, I feel I've learned a thing or two about how to be a good teacher. Granted, many of my colleagues have been at it for longer than me, and are much better at it than I am, but here are a few things I've learned, for anyone who is interested in teaching English:

1.) Teach what excites you. I often tell my students, "You write better when you write about things that matter to you." The same goes for teaching.

2.) Change your syllabus every semester, to avoid stagnation. There is so much amazing stuff to read and write about. Why make your students read the same things every semester? You will get bored with it, and if you are bored, your students will probably be too. It's your job to help your students see that reading and writing are anything but boring.

3.) Let your personality shine through. I have had teachers who were almost robotic with how they presented information and conducted their classes. Be yourself! Swear! Share things you've written, what you're reading, what you're involved in with your students. Let them see that you are a human being with thoughts, opinions, and passions.

4.) Be flexible. Don't get enslaved to your syllabus or course outline or lesson plans. Some of my best classes took place when I decided to change a lesson at the last minute. You need to prepare, of course. But a good class is like jazz. There is preparation and improvisation.

5.) Be a constant learner. It is literally impossible to know everything about your subject. Thus, we can never stop learning. Don't be afraid to let your students know that you are still learning, that you are not a Jedi master, that mastery of anything is an illusion.

6.) Be inspiring and empowering. Some of your students will come into class with the mindset that they are "a bad writer." I tell my students that anyone can be a good writer, that writing, like anything, takes practice. But, if you have passion and ideas, you can change the world with your words.

7.) Don't be lazy. I hear teachers complain all the time about how students are lazy. But no one talks about teachers being lazy, but they sometimes are. I have had teachers who gave me little or no feedback on my writing. Just because you have tenure doesn't give you the right to be lazy.

8.) Be accessible. Some teachers put up this intimidating, authoritarian front, to the point of being scary. Don't be scary. Think of your students as co-learners, as friends.

9.) Don't be boring. Boring people are not interesting or inspiring. If you notice that your students have glazed expressions or are falling asleep, don't blame them. Blame yourself, and change.

10.) Have fun! Teaching is a job, but if you are teaching from your passion, from your heart, it can be extremely fun. Young people are so full of ideas and passion. If you can tap into that, your classes will be awesome!

There you go, future teachers of the world!

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