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Top Tips for Amazing Teachers

Thanks to its partnership with publisher Eye on Education, EducationWorld is pleased to present this blog post by PJ Caposey, author of Building a Culture of Support: Strategies for School Leaders.

As educators, we are truly fortunate to work with, and alongside, a wonderful group of people who have chosen to make their life’s work that of serving children. Watching my colleagues in education work on a Saturday morning at a coffee house and reflecting upon my work with educators throughout the year, I thought about my hopes for someone about to embark on the student teaching experience.

Here is my advice for those who have chosen the greatest profession in the world:


Be Amazing
I may look at things through rose-colored glasses, but I do not believe that any teacher goes into the profession to be average. Often when I am conversing with teachers, however, I ask them to tell me about the best teacher in their building and what sets him or her apart. I usually get an answer without hesitation, talking about how incredible some colleague is for kids. I follow that up by asking if they are simply being modest, and usually I am provided with more reasons why the aforementioned colleague is amazing. Remember that you can be amazing, too. If you can tell me why somebody else stands apart, then you can stand apart yourself. Set a basement for your performance as an educator—not a ceiling. You truly can be great.


Connect and Contribute
Change occurs in all facets of life, business and society. Technology and the connected nature of education are real, beneficial, and are not going away. In terms of social media and being connected, students are far ahead of the curve compared to our teachers. Todd Whitaker, respected educational speaker and author of over 30 books, has 15,800 Twitter followers. Justin Bieber has over 32 million followers. Connect, find, follow and engage in any manner you can—but also contribute to the knowledge and experiential base of the profession. Blog—please blog. Let me, and let others, learn from what you have already experienced—good or bad.


Read
As educators, it seems natural that we would be readers. Most of us are, but many do not do professional reading. If we do, we tend to read things very particular to what we already know, or know that we want to know. My hope for educators is that they read six books this year and begin following a handful of blogs for "easy Sunday reading." My hopes for your reading selections are as follows: read two books that pertain directly to your job description and areas of needed professional growth (job-related reading), read two books that focus on leadership, and read two books that focus on psychology, sociology, or any other humanistic topic that is not education-centric, but has connections that can be drawn.

Job-Related reading:  Even the most experienced teachers or administrators "don’t know what they don’t know." Everybody needs to continually support his/her own professional growth by keeping up with new ideas and re-visiting explanations of best practice.

Leadership:  Schools need leaders. They need better school leaders and better teacher-leaders. Often teachers completely ignore leadership self-development as a viable professional development area. Not only does understanding leadership benefit teacher growth and school improvement, but it can also create a greater understanding of the demands facing other professionals in the building. I personally found myself having a much greater understanding of why my boss did the things he did after attending some superintendent trainings this year. Not only did I understand his job better, but I also better understood mine.

Humanistic:  Education is the most people-centered profession in the world. Understanding how to better understand, relate, maximize relationships, etc. will help all educators be better at their job.

Blogs:  Blogs should be easy reading—subscribe or bookmark a few that you like and set aside 30 minutes per week to simply read the thoughts of your colleagues. This is a great way to decompress, revitalize, and most importantly, learn.


Be Purpose-Driven
Every day in some way, please remind yourself of why you do what you do. In a way that is meaningful to you, remind yourself why you are grading papers at 11:30 p.m. on a Tuesday, or why you are sitting in a coffee house alone on a Saturday fighting through a stack of essays an inch-and-a-half thick. You are doing this because you wanted to serve children and make their personal world a little better as a result of your work. Never forget that.

My hope for this year is that you choose to be amazing, give yourself a daily reminder of why you chose the greatest profession in the world, connect and contribute, and read and stay "unfinished." If you truly believe that you control the outcome, this year could be the greatest of your career.


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