Frequent Teacher Mistakes that Can be Avoided

Teacher Mistakes
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No teacher is perfect. We all make mistakes. Mistakes come in a myriad of sizes. There are those “unforgivable” mistakes that will likely cost of us our job. These mistakes are rarely made, but often generate media attention at least on the local level. The majority of teacher mistakes are small in nature, but they can have a significant effect on the students we are charged to teach. The terrific news is that most teacher mistakes are entirely avoidable.

These mistakes are typically born out of inexperience and ignorance meaning that they are correctable and preventable.

Bringing Personal Problems to Work

We all face personal adversity at some point in our career. It is essential that we do not allow our personal problems to impact our classrooms. Your students need you to be 100% focused on pouring into them. Our students need us to provide stability, normalcy, and a natural calm. Teaching should be our escape. The hours of 8-3 should be a safe haven free from the issues that await us outside of school hours. If personal problems are interfering with your ability to teach, you should take a few days off to deal with the situation.

Failure to Adapt or Change

Teaching is continuously evolving and changing. There is always something bigger and better than what we did yesterday. Teachers must be willing to embrace change. They must stay up-to-date with the latest educational trends, make adjustments to their philosophy, and improve all areas including the ones which they already do well.

They must recognize that every day, every year, every student, and every class are different. They must sense when something is not working and be willing to find a replacement that will work. They must adapt to their students, rather than expecting their students to adapt to them. Teachers must embrace change, or they will be left behind.

Failure to Communicate with Parents

Teachers must actively pursue an open communication line between themselves and the parents of the students which they teach. Teachers who shy away from parental communication are doing themselves a disservice in the long term. Parents can be your best friend or your worst enemy. It is vital to establish proactive communication with every parent early in the year so that it is easier to address issues that may arise throughout the year. These early communications should be positive in nature. Thanks to technology there are many ways to communicate with an individual parent or a group of parents. Failing to take advantage of these communication tools can limit your overall effectiveness as a teacher.

Failure to Keep Up with Grading

Grading papers is monotonous and time consuming. Very few teachers like to grade papers, but it is an essential duty of being a teacher. Grading validates a student’s work. It provides them with valuable feedback, which can spur growth. Teachers who get behind find it nearly impossible to catch up. A good rule of thumb is that papers should be graded and recorded within 2-3 days of an assignment’s due date. Teachers should be putting in an average of 4-6 grades per week.

Teachers do themselves an injustice when they assign an inordinate amount of homework each night. In most cases, 8-10 well thought out problems can help you identify whether a student understand a particular concept or needs more remediation.

Gossiping about Other Teachers/Students/Parents

Gossip will destroy relationships between teachers, students, and parents. School gossip can be defined as discussing or sharing information about an individual that may embarrass that individual and/or does not have a direct bearing on the education of a student.  It does not have any place at school, yet walk into virtually any teacher’s lounge in America, and you are likely to hear teachers talking about another teacher, a student, or a parent in this manner. Gossip can quickly cause a rift amongst faculty and staff members often interfering with the overall school atmosphere and student learning.

Lack of Adequate Preparation

Teaching is harder than a lot of people believe. Teachers may have set hours of 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. with summers off, but most spend a lot of that time grading papers, preparing for the next day’s lessons, or researching methods to improve what they currently do. The best teachers often arrive early and stay late. They spend a significant amount of their summers attending professional development workshops hoping to learn something they can apply to their classroom. It takes a lot of time to be adequately prepared for every lesson, every day. Teachers that do not spend the necessary preparation time will be overwhelmed and ineffective.

Lack of Structure

Teachers are an authoritative figure by design. Students are going to test that authority quickly. Many teachers do themselves a disservice by attempting to distance themselves from that role. They lack the structure necessary for their students to thrive. Students respond positively to a structured learning environment. Structure does not mean that you are a dictator unwilling to listen to your students. It means that you are organized, have high expectations and hold your students accountable for their individual actions. It is better to be respected than it is to be liked. Too many teachers worry about the latter, when it is the former that will produce the most effective results.

Overuse of Discipline Referrals

Principals and students quickly lose respect for teachers who send students to the office for every little thing.

Classroom management is a crucial part of a teacher’s job. When a teacher sends multiple students every day to the office, it says that they are inadequate at handling that part of the job. It tells the principal that the teacher is dealing with discipline issues more than they are teaching. It tells the students that the teacher does not demand the respect needed to have control over the classroom. Sending a student to the office should be a last resort only used after every other option has been tried.

Self Isolation

Teachers should be collaborative by nature. They should embrace what other teachers have to offer, exchanging ideas and best practices, seeking advice, and offering encouragement. They should not be isolated or withdrawn. They should be open and willing to share what they are excellent at doing. They should understand that this exchange of best practices impacts a larger number of students because twenty teachers doing something extraordinary is better than one teacher doing something extraordinary. Self isolation, no matter the reason, leads to mistrust. Mistrust can destroy the cohesion that a faculty needs to maximize learning potential successfully.

Yelling At Students

Continuous yelling undermines a teacher’s authority, causes some students to withdraw, and rarely produces the results the teacher is seeking. Too many teachers believe that yelling or berating their students is an effective form of student discipline. In reality, it demonstrates ignorance. It is a form of bullying and has been proven to be ineffective in long term discipline, though it may yield short term results encouraging a teacher to continue the practice rather than finding a better solution.

There is a difference between occasionally raising your voice and continuous yelling. Most teachers have an established “teacher voice” that they use when they need to get the attention of an individual student or the class.