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10 Ways To Be Proactive

February 10, 2015

Teaching is stressful and hard on a daily basis, even for experienced teachers. There are so many things to remember, so many student needs, and so many responsibilities that it can easily become overwhelming. Teacher burn-out is a real problem. 40 to 50 percent of new teachers leave within their first five years on the job. (nprEd, 2014)

How do teachers  deal with the stress and become the educators we want to be? In conversations with pre-service teachers and classroom teachers  we have emphasized the value of recognizing what we can and cannot control. Teachers who accept what they can control are able to fully focus their energy and influence on being proactive. We’ve looked at Stephen Covey’s, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Simon & Schuster, 1992) as a resource to help focus our energy on concerns that we can actually do something about.

Covey defines proactive as being responsible for our own lives…..our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. Proactive people focus on issues they can do something about. The nature of their energy in doing this is positive, enlarging and magnifying. They increase their Circle of Influence.

Reactive people tend to neglect those issues that are under their control and influence. Their focus is elsewhere and their Circle of Influence shrinks. They tend to react to emergencies rather than plan what to do when the situation occurs.Covey_Circles

So as teachers what can we do to be proactive, to take control of situations and create a positive and highly functioning classroom? For new teachers especially, focus on what you can do now; everyday will give you more experience and more confidence. Here are ten ways to take control of your teaching and your classroom beginning today.

10 Ways Be Proactive

  1. Begin each day with a smile. You set the climate for the students in your classroom and in the ways you interact with faculty, staff, and parents. I always prefer to begin the day with the colleague who has a smile, a joke or  a kind comment. Students prefer teachers who smile and laugh.
  2. Be ready for the day. Before you go to bed at night, make sure you are organized and ready for the morning. If you begin the school day by running late or trying to complete last-minute tasks, you will be playing catch-up all day. Plan time to get to school, get a cup of coffee, organize your classroom and be ready when students arrive.
  3. Greet students at the door. Experienced educators will tell you many behavior problems begin in the hallway and continue inside the classroom. By being in the door you are able to observe hallway behavior and diffuse student situations or remind students of appropriate behavior right away. It also gives you a chance to learn more about your students and build relationships.
  4. Have clear expectations, routines, and procedures. Establish clear expectations for your classroom and revisit them often. Teachers and students  function better in an organized and safe learning environment.
  5. Grab their attention. Have something ready for students to do as soon as they come inside the classroom. Bell ringers should be engaging, meaningful, and relevant. Have some fun here, but get students focused on the classroom and the content.
  6. Plan instruction well. Lessons don’t just happen. It is essential that you plan engaging and relevant lessons for your students. If your students are truly involved in the lesson, they are less likely to be looking for other entertainment. Grab their attention. State the learning target. What are we learning today? Why are we learning this? Use a variety of instructional strategies. Lecturing or talking for 50 minutes is not a lesson. Lessons should be hands-on, student-centered and interactive. Use formative assessment to check for understanding throughout the lesson. How to Keep Kids Engaged
  7. Finish the lesson on time. No last-minute rushing. Wrap up the lesson and have time to give announcements, answer last-minute questions and quietly dismiss class or transition to the next activity. This allows the opportunity to check-in with students and get organized for the next class or subject.
  8. Use any preparation time wisely. Grade as many papers as possible and organize the classroom for tomorrow before leaving school each day.
  9. Reflection is a tool for growth. Keep a journal. What worked today? What needs revision? Be honest and focus energy on what you can change.
  10. Take care of your personal needs. Protect time at home to give attention to family, friends, and personal wellness. Get a good night’s rest and be ready to do it all again tomorrow…with a SMILE.

 Use your energy wisely. Be proactive and positive.

The Dilemma

I have come to a frightening conclusion.
I am the decisive element in the classroom.
It is my personal approach that will create the climate.
It is my daily mood that makes the weather.
As a teacher I possess tremendous power to make a student’s life miserable or joyous.
I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration.
I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, and a student humanized or de-humanized.

Haim Ginott



2 Comments leave one →
  1. David Carpenter permalink
    February 12, 2015 10:33 am

    Very good post! I may use some of your thoughts in my upcoming Blog.

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