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Ten Tips for Teachers

There is a certain psychology to teaching that is not always easy to decipher, especially when one means well. Here are ten tips for teachers having to deal with classroom difficulties. This article comes from the website, written by Jennifer Gonzalez. You can find it in its integrity here. The following is an abridged and modified version of her article, which can be helpful for teachers beginning their careers. Without further ado, here are ten common mistakes teachers often fall for:

1. Smiling at the Wrong Times

It’s important to show students you have a sense of humor and that you can appreciate theirs, but everyone needs to learn that there’s a time and place for it. Have a private conversation with your class clowns, letting them know that there will be times when you won’t react to their jokes – that will be your signal that it’s a “serious” time.

2. Handling Problems Publicly

Addressing student misbehavior in a public way risks embarrassing the student; furthermore, if a child is prone to being oppositional, things are likely to degenerate. Whenever possible, address off-task behavior in private (speak to him in a quiet voice, silently place a post-it note on the student’s desk to signal a problem, call the student up to your desk on recess, minimize the spectacle).

3. All Sound, No Sight

Behavior problems often start with students simply not understanding what they are supposed to do. This is especially true when teachers only give verbal directions instead of making them visual. Provide visual cues such as writing the steps on the board, or handing them out a plan for the day.

4. Not Waiting for Quiet

Students who don’t hear what you say will either (a) turn to a neighbor to ask, or (b) follow instructions incorrectly. It’s easy to blame kids for being poor listeners, but the problem could actually be the teacher’s timing. Before addressing your class, force yourself to wait a few extra seconds (about five) until everyone – not most students, but everyone – is completely quiet.

5. Making Students Choose Between Listening and Reading

If you have preliminary remarks to make before giving students written material, do your talking first, then pass out the papers. Once students have the document in hand, tell them you’re going to give them a few minutes to read it. Then…BE QUIET and let them process it without interrupting. If you must interrupt, have students turn their papers face-down and look at you, then give the announcement.

6. Only Speaking in “Don’ts”

If you tell a seventh grade boy not to tap his pencil, he still has « pencil tapping » on the brain. Instead, tell students what to do (« Jake, put your pencil under your textbook until I tell you to use it »), or distract the student with another activity altogether (« Jake, read number 4 for me, please »).

7. Taking Too Long

Avoid using up precious time lecturing a student when he gets off-task. You not only lose precious time, but you can lose a few other students’ attention or collaboration in the process.You don’t have to settle every issue right away; when an interaction drags on, tell the student you’ll finish talking after class. Just becoming aware of this problem will help you improve it.

8. Staying Up Front

Proximity is a huge key to stopping misbehavior before it gets going, or to maintaining students’ attention levels. If you’re always at the front of your classroom, you can’t pick up on trouble in the early stages. Instead, move around while you teach. Do it so casually and so regularly that students just expect it.

9. Focusing on the Problems

It’s natural to expend your energy and attention towards misbehaviors in class, or to only comment when something goes wrong and is improperly done. However, positive attention goes a long way and you’ll get more cooperation out of the students if you give equal (or more) attention to their good behaviors, especially when it comes to students who have trouble with self-control.

10. Taking Things Personally

No matter what’s going on, taking student misbehavior as a personal affront can only make things worse. If things don’t always go well, it doesn’t have to be about you.

** Once again, this text comes from Jennifer Gonzalez’ article on, dated November 23, 2014.