Sage Advice: Educating Educators

What would you teach a teacher?

What would you teach a teacher?

Plan each lesson as if it were the Super Bowl.

Walter J. Brown

Global-studies teacher
Queens High School of Teaching
Bellerose, New York

1. Love who you teach. (Know the developmental, social, emotional, physical, and spiritual systems of each child.) 2. Love what you teach. (Be passionate about your subjects and content.) 3. Love to teach. (Research pedagogy and best practices.)

Tim Van Soelen

Professor of education
Dordt College
Sioux Center, Iowa

Enjoy the moments. It is easy to get caught up in lesson planning, assessment, grading, parent outreach, and paperwork and forget to be really present. We must remember to enjoy the time we have with our students and the subject matter that we love.

Susan O'Rourke

Jane Addams High School
Bronx, New York

To listen.

Jason Huffman

Calvary Chapel Junior High School
Santa Ana, California

Never stop learning. The challenge of learning something new, the confusion and chaos that can accompany learning, as well as the enjoyment, enlightenment, and even the excitement new learning brings, undoubtedly make a better teacher.

Kristen Montgomery

English teacher
Canajoharie High School
Canajoharie, New York

Realize you are in the people business! While teaching content is your primary responsibility, in order to do that you must build relationships with people -- your students, their parents, and your colleagues. Make connections on a personal level, and deeper levels of teaching and learning will emerge.

Dan Murray

Wheatland-Chili Middle School
Scottsville, New York

Be your own advocate. I cannot believe how many times I see new teachers get pushed around and beat down by other staff, administration, or parents. Wanting to please and get tenure seems to cloud the judgment of what is right and where their personal limit is.

Cyndee Custis

Fourth-grade teacher
El Descanso School
Camarillo, California

To find joy in small victories -- to be happy when one student "gets it"; to be thrilled when things become easier for a class; to relish in accomplishments of the struggling while not ignoring the gains made by the natural scholars -- and to find some joy every day.

Katherine Steinbring

English teacher
Lake Park High School
Roselle, Illinois

That all learning is filtered through a perspective. Because that perspective is developed through life experiences, no one in the classroom, including the teacher, has the same perspective. Therefore, if no child is supposed to be left behind, all information must be taught using multiple perspectives.

Patti Coggins

Social science specialist, curriculum and instruction
Loudoun County Public Schools
Ashburn, Virginia

How to teach. It is a noble and good profession, but too many teachers do not actually teach. Instead, they use PowerPoint as a crutch and simply read, which leads to my most common student comment: "I can read the slides myself -- teach me!" Yell, write on the board, move, talk, look them in the eye, engage them, get them to think!

Florentine Hoelker

Dean of instruction
Bryant & Stratton College
Willoughby Hills, Ohio

Classroom-management strategies. There should be instruction in how to deal with parents, and how to keep accurate, fair grades. I would be sure the educators understood environmental literacy and how to teach in an outdoor environment. I would introduce them to award-winning environmental-education programs, such as Project Learning Tree, Project WILD, and Project WET. I would give them questioning strategies, and tips to stimulate critical thinking in their students. Finally, I would encourage educators to promote peace and social equity.

Betsy Leonard

Environmental-education specialist and independent consultant
Parachute, Colorado

That he or she must keep in mind that his or her job is to teach people, not to teach subjects. If one does not deal with each student as an individual, all the content in the world will fall on deaf ears.

Benjamin A. Rau

Dennis Township Middle School
Dennisville, New Jersey

How to hold high expectations for everyone -- themselves, their colleagues and administrators, their district, and, most importantly, their students. I would show teachers what high expectations look like and how they can be met, and teach them the consequences of low expectations, especially for children of poverty.

Sandra Kinne

Research associate (and former fourth-grade teacher)
Hezel Associates
Syracuse, New York

To ask meaningful questions. To listen to responses without making assumptions. To guide students to find their own answers. To connect knowing stuff to living life. To model learning as a way to live rather than a task to complete by continuing to expand what you, as a teacher, know and are able to do.

Susan Graham

Family and consumer science teacher
Gayle Middle School
Stafford County, Virginia

To survive amid human and societal variation, teachers need two key creativity skills: fluency and flexibility. The first is the ability to generate unlimited ideas in response to a classroom or curriculum challenge; the second, the ability to approach problems from many angles. These core skills allow a teacher to make do with little, inject variety, try new approaches when an idea does not work, and always have the ability to jump into a another's shoes to gain perspective. Ironically, most adults have these abilities schooled out of them as children and must relearn them to be talented teachers.

Candace Hackett Shively

Director of K-12 initiatives
Network for Instructional TV
Reston, Virginia

As a high school teacher, I would teach other high school teachers how to incorporate creativity into their classrooms so students can have that enthusiasm they once had in elementary school. When teachers use creativity in the high school classroom in conjunction with student choice, authentic learning experiences with real audiences, and learning-styles-focused tasks, students can, once again, experience the enthusiasm for learning they once had in their early years of education. With these elements, we can establish classrooms that challenge and motivate our students to experience the best source of self-esteem: achievement.

Leanne Maule

Cartersville High School
Cartersville, Georgia

During my first semester teaching middle school, a student asked why I never smiled. I didn't realize that in my hours of focus and concentration, I was keeping some students at arm's length. My student taught me to smile. My advice to a teacher (new or old) is to smile!

Vanessa Balderrama

Middle school science teacher
Long Beach Unified School District
Long Beach, California

That he or she can be the single difference for that one student who others think can't learn. That he or she can be the single difference for that one student who has given up on himself herself. That he or she can make a difference for that one student not for a class period, not for a day, not for a school year, but for a lifetime. That he or she has the power to change two lives: the student's and the teacher's.

Cathy C. White

Program consultant
Division of Scholastic Assistance
Kentucky Department of Education

I would like to remind them why they became a teacher. I would like to remind them that they can and, in fact, do make a difference for every child, every day, in what they do and what they do not; and I would like to remind them that for many of our kids, they are the only tangible link between what is the best of the human condition and what is not, and that is both an awesome responsibility and a blessing worth doing exceptionally well -- every day.

Clayton Wilcox

Superintendent of schools
Largo, Florida

That subject matter is merely a means to interact with students. The student is always the most important reason for teaching. It's more important that students know how to think and use information. The most important things a teacher should be taught would be curiosity, a sense of humor, and the knowledge that no one knows it all.

Doug Mack

Seventh- and eighth-grade science
Floyd Henson Junior High School
Flora, Illinois

Your students are not your friends, but treat them with respect. Start at day one with your fair rules and your practical routines, and stay with it. You are the teacher, and they are the students.

Kathleen Poe

Science and math teacher
Fletcher Middle School
Jacksonville Beach, Florida

To really connect with and care for their students. While academics are naturally important, the social and emotional climate of the classroom and school are pathways or impediments to learning. I would encourage teachers to make learning fun, to get kids to engage with one another, and to make decisions about their work. I would want teachers to remember why they got into teaching in the first place and to stay connected with their larger purposes instead of focusing on petty daily demands.

Hilary Lang Greenebaum

former middle school assistant principal, PhD student in education

Never take yourself or others too seriously. Enjoy what you do, and help others enjoy it, too.

Gary Yocum

Manheim Township High School
Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Always remember why you wanted to become a teacher. Your original passion will help carry you past the rough spots.

Ellis Reyes

West Mercer Elementary School
Mercer Island, Washington

To have high expectations for all students. Not all students come from homes that value education. We need to set the bar high for those who are motivated and for those who have no one at home cheering for them. In the primary grades, many underachievers don't do well because sometimes they are not challenged. If they are quiet and do not cause trouble, they slide through unnoticed and later find themselves so far behind that it is difficult to catch up. I would teach teachers to see students as their own children, expect the best, and care as if they were their own.

Diane Joiner

Second-grade teacher
Lindbergh School District
St. Louis, Missouri

The more I would look forward to your class, the harder I would work in it. Try not to teach as though the world revolves around your class. Make the subject interesting.

Morgan Ford

Mount Dora, Florida

I would teach a teacher the principles for making the classroom an environment for learning by the minds, eyes, and ears of a diverse student population. Integrate a variety of media (audio, video, hands on, and cooperative), promote a variety of learning styles (auditory, visual, individual engagement, and collaborative), and encourage respectful individuality and wisdom.

Joanie Banks-Hunt

engineering and math teacher
Menlo School
Atherton, California

I would emphatically emphasize the reassessment of the goal of teaching. Content is merely an avenue; the real goal of teaching should be the joy of learning. It is this joy that will equip them with the tools needed for the twenty-first century.

Barbara Podbielski

Columbiana County Educational Service Center
Lisbon, Ohio

Change is OK. Students change, and teachers should, too. Working with students for the past thirty-one years, I have seen numerous changes in students, but not so much in teachers my age. We must adapt, particularly to the technology that is changing daily. It is OK as a teacher not to know everything about technology, but it is not OK to be afraid your students know more than you. Use your students to assist, collaborate, and teach. You may be surprised how much more students listen to students than they do to adults.

Michael Stokes

Instructional-technology specialist
Wayne County Board of Education
Jesup, Georgia
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Magazine Issue: 
Nov 2007: Schools of Education
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Sage Advice

Comments (7)

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Early Childhood teacher from Cyprus

For better teaching

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To be flexiple, reflect, assess, and implement what is best for the specific children he or she confronts every year. Teachers should never forget that learning through experience is very important.

Teddy Parvanova (not verified)

What would I teach a teacher?

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Be flexible!

Follow the rules but don't expect circumstances to stay the same at all times. They never do!

James Espinoza (not verified)

What would I teach a teacher?

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I would educate teachers on the federal and state mandated "hoops" that we unfortunately have to jump through in order to become educators and how it is possible to manage if given the right support.

James Espinoza
English Teacher
Rosemead High School

Jennifer (not verified)

What I would teach a teacher

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First and foremost that if you are not having fun, then your students aren't having fun and being bored does not promote learning. What I would also recommend is that if you have the certification to be able to teach another class, switch with another teacher who teaches a different content area. Sometimes we get so hung up on what a student cannot do in our class, that we forget that they shine in other classes. Look at how your students perform and shine in other classes, and maybe you can tailor some of your class activities to meet what they excel and shine at. With that boost of personal pride they get from being able to shine, you will see that are more apt to try harder and work harder for you because of that moment of achievement.

Shari Kuehl (not verified)

Teachers have become facilitators

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My name is Shari Kuehl and I am a fourth grade teacher in Lena, IL. I am currently in a masters program and ultimately I would like to teach teachers in undergraduate programs that are entering the education field.

First, teachers should see themselves as facilitators. Facilitating the needs for the standards set up by their current situation and the needs of their students. Make these two worlds connect. Second, it is give and take. We both learn from each other. Third, it is appropriate to not have all the answers, but to be able to demonstrate the process to finding the answers. Finally, always be aware of the human spirit that lives and needs in ALL people you have contact with.

Michael R. Hattman (not verified)

What would I teach a teacher

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I would suggest that every teacher can learn from reel teachers/students. My website www.movieteacher46 is dedicated to this idea. Visit, lean and offer contributions. mike

Rhonda (not verified)

What I would teach a teacher

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I would teach a teacher to love and see the value and strengths of each child and how to enhance what they have into what they can be.

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