5 Teacher Skills You Should Sharpen This School Year

Andrew Passinger
Andrew Passinger
Middle-High School Principal; M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction, Gifted Certification

With the last couple of years being far from normal for educators, this year brings an opportunity for more school districts to regain some semblance of normalcy. While the challenges brought new initiatives and discoveries regarding the importance of education, teachers were just trying to survive through changes, burnout, and more. Now, they have the chance to sharpen their teacher skills as they attempt to bridge the gap of the pandemic years.

Skill #1: Classroom Behavior Management/Discipline

Students were given a rare chance to stay at home and attend school, which shows in their current behaviors as schools have opened their doors for in-person learning. The ways in which students operated in their own homes, with sibling and pet distractions, unreliable internet in rural locations or with larger families, and staying in their pajamas all day changed the psyche of millions of kids. In some cases, more students got lazier as assignments became easier in the digital world, or they took advantage of teacher grace periods.

Classroom Management Plan

So, what can be done? The first aspect for a teacher to consider is their previous classroom management plan and how they handled online behaviors. Understanding faults in their previous plan will allow them to focus on re-teaching those behaviors and expectations, which will be required in numerous national classrooms, similar to the kindergarten assimilation into the educational world.

Tightening the expectations with repetition, building classroom rules with students, which empowers them to not only participate but follow them, and reading up on behavior management philosophies while adopting the one that best fits their individual model, can enhance the classroom control.

Family Engagement

Communication with parents early on will help sharpen a teacher’s craft. Besides easing the time spent on discipline, it will help build relationships with parents, families, and, of course, the students. And once those students know an educator means business after calling home, they will begin to fall in line with those expectations.

Skill #2: Data-Driven Instruction

This is an absolute requirement when it comes to education. Based on what students have accomplished the last few years, there is no doubt that flaws exist in their learning. Using pre-assessments and benchmarking, are components that are often forgotten. Teachers, more than ever, must discover where their students are in regards to content, from day one.

Using data is imperative in sharpening one’s instructional capabilities. Reflecting on that instruction and adjusting to meet the needs of the student is the difference between teaching and learning. Anyone can “teach” the content but ensuring that students are learning and mastering it is entirely different teacher skills to master.

Multiple platforms exist to measure student levels depending on each district’s philosophy. Measuring those against required standards can help educators adjust their instruction to inform learning. Employing benchmarks can give the foresight into what students already know and how they handle the content levels. And if a district doesn’t subscribe to a platform, there are many free tools online. These, ultimately, will enhance the growth for students, along with their achievement.

Skill #3: Collaboration

While using data to drive instruction is key in the individual classroom, it is also integral to understanding whole grades of students and districts. This only benefits teachers when they have collaboration time. In order to sharpen their personal teacher skills, they need to work with administration in developing pockets of time dedicated to reviewing those elements. If common plan time exists, that makes it so much easier to match up.

If not, attempting small grade-level groups with classroom coverage can be an asset. Understanding assessment and instruction employed by other team members is imperative. Incorporating some peer observations may also help sharpen one’s ability by reviewing what others are doing, along with their strengths, and then adopting those individually.

Skill #4: Creating Active Learners

One of the best ways to become a better instructor is to engage the students in active learning. A starting point may be researching different ways to actively include students in one’s lessons. This also requires major reflection to change what may have traditionally been taught pedagogically. Using state or national standards and data may help incorporate new ideas for engagement. Having students explore topics before introducing content will help with precursory knowledge.

To become a distinguished level teacher, students must understand what and why they are learning about a topic(s). Education is about having students actively involved in processing information for lifelong application and relevancy. Multiple strategies exist to help with classroom engagement. It requires careful planning, the desire to accept failure when a lesson does not work, and then readjust that instruction.

Skill #5: Self-Evaluation and Reflection

One of the most important aspects of education, which will lead to career fulfillment, is the ability to self-reflect. Several levels exist to this skill, which must be practiced often. First of all, when doing a self-evaluation, one must let go of the ego and understand what students actually did and how they learned during a lesson.

Admitting failure or accepting success is a major component. Reflecting on what went wrong or why students didn’t seem to learn will allow an educator to adjust instruction by trying something different and then re-assessing the students. Because the goal is to make sure students learn and master the content. By celebrating a success, one can adopt that method in future lessons.

Related but different is the ability to reflect, whether through mindfulness or journaling or any alternative method. Reflecting allows a teacher to enhance their own learning but reconsidering their emotional feelings about lessons, how students reacted, what was good and bad, and possibly sharing with another peer. This enhances one’s own accountability and empowers them to invest more into their students. It also builds upon relationships by reviewing individual and group goals. Special, reflective teacher skills like this need to be honed constantly to perform it correctly.

So many other careers never get the chance to build upon or their skills to become veteran employees; some never feel the impact of satisfaction with their jobs. And education provides these opportunities daily, if teachers wants to take full grasp of them.

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