Common Mistakes Teachers Make
Teaching kids is hard enough without making life more difficult through our own blunders. This newsletter highlights some of the everyday mistakes made in the classroom. By eliminating these you can make your life a lot easier. The following are some of the most commonplace errors seen in the average classroom.
Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, especially when you are extremely busy or struggling to gain control of the class, it’s easy to do one of the following:
- Attack the Student on a Personal Level - You can call them ‘stupid’ or say things like ‘your just like your brother/sister’, ‘what else could I expect from you’! Comments like these destroy the relationship so necessary for effective teaching.
- Intimidate the Student – Teachers do have a position of power in the classroom not only through their status but just because they are the adult in the room. This use of intimidation is usually a result of the teacher losing their temper and ‘lashing out’ at the student. Actions like this not only destroy the relationship but also expose lack of self-control, a personal ‘weakness’.
- Poor Use of Non-Verbal Cues – Be aware that over 90% of the emotional content of any communication is conveyed through your body language, facial expression and tone of voice. It won’t matter what message you vocalize the students will feel the way it is delivered. In the extreme cases teachers are reduced to conducting themselves in a passive aggressive manner that does nothing for the student or the teacher.
- Show Impatience – It’s sometimes so hard to be patient, especially after you have given the instruction to the class and you ‘know’ the student has been listening. And nine times out of ten you would be right. But what good does an outburst do? Those students who were not listening still need to hear the instruction and remember when you were at Uni. or in a T&D lecture how your mind wandered. It is impossible for an adult to concentrate 100% of the time and this is more so for subjects that are not exciting for you. So treat the frustration as an opportunity to practice compassion. Also there will be some students who just didn’t understand the instruction and your displeasure will be a source of shame for them.
- Talk Too Much/Too Little – This is a bit like hitting the ‘goldilocks’ level of communication. In my experience teachers are more likely to talk too much, unfortunately we all like the sound of our own voice and enjoy the limelight. But once the student has ‘got the message’ the extra talk will turn them off. It is less likely but does happen that the teacher talks too little and the message they think they are delivering fails to get through to the student.
- Not Listening – No one likes to be ignored and that includes the children. If you are going to claim to run a fair classroom then everyone deserves the respect of being heard. When you don’t listen not only do you belittle the student you may also miss out on some vital piece of information that can make all the difference to your lesson.
- Ignoring Conflict – One bit of advice, that I think is very hard to get right is ignoring any situation that you should deal with. I know in my time I have ‘not heard’ a comment because I know the student has said something not expecting me to hear it so I don’t. Working with very dysfunctional students I have been known to say ‘I’m sorry, I’m a bit deaf and I need to know exactly what you said then. I don’t want to give you the consequence of what I thought you said’. It’s amazing how often the comment ‘repeated’ isn’t really in its original form. But this ‘ignoring’ is about me changing the focus of the behaviour. However, when it is a conflict within the classroom then your responsibility to ensure a safe and secure environment must always be a priority.
- Not Modeling the Behaviour You Want – The way you conduct yourself is at the heart of developing a classroom culture. Dress professionally; there is such a thing as a teacher’s uniform, neat, clean and tidy. Make your workspace organized and efficient. Notes on the IWB or computer screen should be neat and spelling correct. Some inexperienced teachers like to appear to be ‘cool’ (is that still the term) but they are not kids, they are paid professional teachers and should model that professionalism so the students can develop behaviours that will empower them to one day present as being ‘professional’.
These are just some of the mistakes that can be made and I know at one time or another I have made them all. Remember we are not perfect but we can strive for perfection. The kids are worth it!