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Ask Dr. Lynch: How Do I Become a Superstar Teacher?

EducationWorld Q&A columnist Dr. Matthew Lynch is an associate professor of education at Langston University. Dr. Lynch provides expert advice on everything from classroom management to differentiated instruction. Read all of his columns here, and be sure to submit your own question.

Dr. Matthew Lynch

This week, reader Alyssa M. asks:

Ever since fourth grade, I have wanted to be a teacher. You see, my fourth-grade English teacher was a superstar, and she inspired me to follow in her footsteps. This September, I will begin my first year as a teacher and I want to establish myself as a superstar teacher from day one. How can I accomplish this?


Alyssa, thank you for the question. Facing new students is challenging for the experienced teacher, let alone the new one who is just beginning her teaching career. Establishing yourself as a superstar teacher from day one may seem like a daunting task to most, but it is possible. So feel confident about your newly embellished classroom, review the “first day at school” checklist, take a deep breath, and tell yourself that all will be well. Get ready to make a great impression on your new students. Here are some tips that can win your students over and help you be a superstar teacher from the very first day.

  1. Establish the ground rules.  Once you have introduced yourself, communicate ground rules for behavior, policies, interactions and permissions that will be used throughout the year. By being clear about your expectations, you provide students with boundaries for class behavior. You might want to discuss policies for attendance, homework, passes to leave the classroom and the use of electronic devices. Detail the consequences for not following rules and policies, but make sure that you do so in a positive manner. You can even plan a quiz or classroom activity on the dos and don’ts of the classroom, just to make sure everyone understands your expectations. You may still have to reiterate these rules for the first couple of weeks for them to sink in completely.
  2. Practice what you preach.  Irrespective of how clearly you have stated the rules, some students are likely to test the limits. Be sure to be consistent in terms of what you say and how you act. Handling students who wish to challenge you may get extremely difficult, because if other students see that you do not practice what you preach and that the consequences are not as stringent as you made them out to be, they also will test limits.
  3. Get to know your students.  While this is a process that you can start on the first day, it will take you much longer to build a personal relationship with your students. This is something that you can achieve over a period of time. At the same time, making an initial effort to get to know your students can define how comfortable students will be in your class. In today’s online world it might be a good idea to make an initial contact with students by sending an email welcoming them to the new school year and to your class. Use icebreaker activities on the first day, with the goal of learning something about each student, as well as having them learn something about each other. Information such as favorite online activity, favorite books, places that they have visited and extracurricular interests can be generated from icebreaker activities. Avoid being a spectator in this process. Make sure that you share information about yourself too, but refrain from getting too personal. 
  4. Dress and act appropriately. You should dress in a manner that inspires confidence. Being in class on time sets an example for students. Also, never play favorites and always speak positively about other students and your colleagues. It is also important that you are always professional, and never talk badly about another class, student or teacher to students.

Follow the guidelines above, and you are sure to be a superstar teacher from day one! Good luck, and let me know how your first year goes.

Related resources

EducationWorld's Back-to-School Archive
Guide for New Teachers
The New Teacher Advisor


About Dr. Lynch

Dr. Matthew Lynch is a Chair and Associate Professor of Education at Langston University and a blogger for the Huffington Post. Dr. Lynch also is the author of the newly released book It’s Time for a Change: School Reform for the Next Decade and A Guide to Effective School Leadership Theories. Please visit his Web site for more information.

If you have a question for “Ask Dr. Lynch,” submit it here. Topics can be anything education-related, from classroom management to differentiated instruction.

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