Ten Commandments of Teaching
1. Thou shalt have the end in mind when you begin and have a purpose for each and every activity you engage your students with. Do not simply assign an activity, worksheet, or project because the book suggests it, because you did it last year, or because the other teacher down the hall is also doing it. Know the specific outcome you want from what you are doing. For each lesson or activity you engage students in, you should know what end result you want to achieve with the class time invested in that activity. Plan the assessment as you plan the activity. Know how it fits into the grand scheme of learning in that particular lesson or unit. Think of each thing you do as another step along the learning journey and make each step purposeful and deliberate.
2. Thou shalt realize you are but part of each student's journey, both in school and in life. Realize that students have other classes and other teachers. Realize that students have lives outside of school. Do not make your class a burden with monumental amounts of work to be completed outside of class. Honor their other committments, tests, projects, basketball games, etc..
3. Thou shalt honor your students time as you expect them to honor yours. Realize that students deserve and want to know how they did on assignments. Do not linger over grading tests or projects. You expect your students to meet the deadlines you assign. Also honor the deadlines they would give you for feedback on the work you have given them to complete. Do not waste class time - whether it is looking for something, talking on the phone, or anything else that distracts you from your purpose - teaching the class. You expect students to be on time and on task. You owe the same respect to them and their time.
4. Thou shalt not expect your students to contribute more effort than you are willing the contribute yourself. I have heard the saying, "Never work harder than your students." In theory, in some ways, I agree. However, I also believe it is unfair to expect students to work harder than we are willing to work ourselves at our job. Students need to be in charge of their own learning, and strive to be independent. Teachers still have a role in that process though. We must come to class prepared, not letting our role in the learning process slide. Teachers must uphold their part in the learning process by being prepared, by giving accurate, prompt reflective assessments, and by using class time productively.
5. Thou shalt read and learn in order to continue to learn and teach. Teachers who are life-long learners give students role models to follow. These teachers learn to grow and change as new ideas and research come to the front of educational policy and practice. They are always willing the try something new, reaching beyond the tried and true, constantly seeking improvement in their own practice. Read about teaching, read about your content area, read for pleasure. Learn to grow, learn to change and learn to learn.
6. Thou shalt plan for the inevitably uninevitable happenings. Always have a Plan B (and maybe even a C). Things happen. Technology fails, students forget things they should have brought to class, the site you visited yesterday won't be online today, the copier will break, the lesson will go quicker than you anticipate, the lab will bomb, the maps won't take as long to color as you thought, etc.. etc.. etc.. Plan ahead with something else to go. Always have a fall-back plan, even if it is something as simple as a trivia game based on your subject matter.
7. Thou shalt expect your students to be successful and therefore, treat them accordingly. Students will rise to meet your expectations, so set those expectations high. You can always adjust downward if need be, but set the bar high to begin with. Act as if you anticipate each child earning an A in your class. Never demean the slower learners, the struggling students, or those who simply choose to fail. Always act as if this time will be different and you anticipate that child succeeding.
8. Thou shalt offer compassion and consolation for your struggling students. Setting expectations high is appropriate but always acknowledge students who are struggling. Make adjustments and accomodations to make learning accessible to all students. Let students know you understand your class is difficult for them, and offer concrete examples of how you can help them master the content. Make yourself available to them, with a compassionate smile and pat on the shoulder.
9. Thou shalt maintain some sense of order in thy classroom. Neatness counts. You don't have to be a neat freak but your classroom should have a logical sense of order with specific locations for materials, turning in work, storage, etc.. When things have a home, everyone is more comfortable, and less time is wasted looking for things, asking where thing belong, and trying to get ready to work.
Order in the classroom also means maintaining a sense of classroom management. Each teacher develops his/her own style of teaching and discipine. A well run classroom seamlessly transitions from task to task because expectations are clear, consistent and conveyed.
10. Thou shalt teach only until you enjoy it not. Respect the teaching profession. When you do not wake up each morning excited to come to school, looking forward to learning alongside your students, and believing in the potential of each child you encounter, the time has come for you to explore other options. Respect the teaching profession and those who love it enough to acknowledge this next step in your own journey and move on.