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Thursday, October 20, 2011

10 Ways to be a Terrible Teacher



Teaching is a noble calling. That is why when a teacher doesn't behave nobly it breaks trust and we get upset. I have to admit that I've had days as a "TT" (Terrible Teacher.) If we're honest with ourselves, we all have. It is usually when we're tired, grumpy or were woken up by a parent calling to complain about something we don't really agree with. But there are no excuses. As I've been teaching 10 years, I believe I have few days as a TT if any but there are certainly things I can improve upon

So, today, I'll share a few of the things I think make a teacher terrible.


Stop and Be Excellent
Some of you will be shocked that I've taken my positive tone out of this post. And I do have a positive message. The positive message is that when we go down the path to be a Terrible Teacher that we check ourselves and stop. That we remember our noble calling and be more. That we move ahead and focus on our students. We can't afford to be a terrible teacher to even one student.

Sometimes knowing what to do means we also know what NOT to do.


10- The teacher is always on their cell phone.
I have a new iPhone - today I'm locking it in my desk during class. Sure, I'm usually checking off my list or responding to a question for IT support at my school but my students don't know that. A cell phone in my hand, whatever I'm doing, says that someone out of the room is more important than the people who are in my room. That is a lie. When I'm teaching, they are the most important thing in the room. Nothing should be between me and them.

9 - The teacher is always on the computer or not paying attention.
Multitasking is a lie. You shouldn't be Facebooking, Tweeting, emailing, surfing, reading your PLN or anything during class - even during a test. You should be up and around in your classroom helping and TEACHING. They are paying you to teach, not hang out in a virtual teacher's lounge. Teaching is work. You need to be part of  your class. When you sit down at your desk and disengage with your students, you suck the energy out of your classroom.

I knew a teacher who used to sew on her sewing machine during class. As soon as she started sewing, the class knew they were "free." You are shocked at sewing but I see teachers doing this now with electronic devices. You are paid to be WITH and engaged with your students not doing something else.

8- The teacher is always losing his/her temper or is predictably dramatic.
I lose my temper 2-3 times a year - last year it was twice. Everyone knows it because it is rare. If you're losing your temper a lot you need to figure out why and get help. You might be tired or under a  lot of stress, but you are the adult. There is no reason for you to have to raise your voice or constantly lose your temper. It isn't good for you and it isn't good for the students. Teachers who are bullies should be ashamed of themselves.

The predictably dramatic could be when you get soooooooo mad you jump on your desk. The kids are shocked the first time and get quiet. But then, they start plotting. You have sealed your doom.

7- The Teacher shares private student information publicly
NEVER call grades out loud - even for the top students. It is embarrassing. Don't do it. It is a horrible thing when teachers do this. It is also horrible when you berate them in front of the class for ANYTHING. If you want to lose the respect of your class let them see you treat a classmate - even one they don't like- with disrespect. This isn't a contest and it isn't a reality show. Handle private things privately. Period.

6 - The teacher talks without stopping for more than 10 minutes (especially if monotone.)
Do you realize that after 20 minutes they are asleep? Imagine the principal from Ferris Bueller's day off. This sort of thing will kill the love of learning. Learn to listen for cues and watch for them. When quite a few kids start going to sleep DO SOMETHING. Vary your voice. Have them read. Ask a question. Extended lecture should be viewed as going through the motions of teaching for most students. Sleeping is not an option. I have made an exception when a child is getting over a loss or has something going on in their family but typically this is a no no for me.

5 - The Teacher only teaches with one method
Worksheets are so hard for many children. I have one child who really doesn't learn a thing from them. When a teacher sticks to only one modality he/she will teach the children who learn through that modality and everyone else will be "bad students." We can differentiate and we can use multiple modalities. Wanda the One Note Worksheet Wonder will kill the love of learning in a class of students who are auditory learners. Likewise if you only assess learning with tests, you're missing the point and you're probably also missing the learning that could happen.

4 - The teacher who only teaches "good" students and lets the "bad" students do their own thing.
You May Not Elect to Fail
Let me tell you something. A "good" student can learn alone in a room with a book and doesn't need a teacher. A good teacher can make a good student into a great one. But a good teacher also works to reach every child.

I know of a child with a significant LD who is now one of the most successful thoracic surgeons I know. I now an incredibly gifted graphic designers who has some of the leading Fortune 100 companies knocking on her door but was made to feel like an idiot because she couldn't diagram sentences in middle school. Good teachers work to reach and teach all children. If you only want to work with "good" students then I'm happy that you have such a great teaching environment but the reality of most of our classrooms is that we have some kids who could go either way. I teach only good students because I believe all of my students are great. I get what I believe and expect.

3 - The teacher who teaches the same every year without changing.
I know a math teacher who fought getting a new book because it would mean making out new tests and this person had been using the same tests for over 15 years. Some students don't get a subject and need some extra help and assessment and others don't. When I teach binary numbers, some years I can cover it in 2 days and others it takes 7. It depends on the students.

2- The Teacher whose words mean nothing.
Imagine the traffic policeman who just stood by the road, wagging his finger, and yelling at cars for speeding.

"Slow down .... now... now.."
"I said slow down."

This officer would become a joke because there is no teeth in his actions. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Be consistent. But don't lie to them. Don't threaten with no follow through but if you're threatening a lot, then why? Why should you count? Your word should be enough.

1- Hate your students
Why are you teaching if this is you? When you talk poorly about a student it does get back to your student eventually. I don't respect teachers who I think have a vendetta against a particular student. I admit I've had 3 in my teaching career who were especially hard for me to love. But I had to adjust my own attitude and know that even if that child's goal was to get me, that I was above it. I am an adult doing an important job and I will behave nobly. No one can take away my nobility but me.

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When you mess up, fess up.

I had a student earlier in the year that I felt I embarrassed. I was very upset about it. I didn't mean to, I saw her blush and realized it after the fact. I found her later and apologized. She tried to let me out of it but I said,

"You are important to me and I think I embarrassed you. You need to know you can trust me and I will do everything in my power to never do it again. I am so sorry, it wasn't intentional. Will you forgive me?"

I already had a good relationship with that student but now it is a great one. I treasure her and she knows she can trust me. I think that because I admitted this to her and was human about it, she was willing to forgive me. I'm so glad I did. Do you have a student you need to apologize to? Do it.


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