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Ways to Work Smarter as a Teacher

Maurice Elias

Prof. of Psychology, Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional Learning Lab, Director, the Collaborative Center for Community-Based Research and Service
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Have you heard Lou Holtz? He was a football coach, most notably at Notre Dame, and now is an analyst for college football on ESPN. But his most important role is as a motivational speaker. Actually, I would say he's more of an accomplishment speaker.

Lou Holtz knows how to help people accomplish important things. His message is simple: Work hard, set goals, and decide on the most important things you must get done today and do them. This is emotionally intelligent advice and a great way to help you have a productive school year.

I'd like to amplify Lou Holtz's message a bit more:

Working hard also means working smart. Empower your students and colleagues to work with you and join in common tasks. Collaboration is actually the key to getting more done. Setting goals, for any educator, must include the social-emotional and character development of students. Your students' SECD is the key to accomplishing almost any other goals you might set.

And among those handful of things you must do in a given day, I hope that one of them -- every day -- is to greet your students, and to also extend a warm, helping hand to your colleagues and to parents. If you do this daily, your other tasks for the day will seem lighter and more manageable.

Through sincere greetings and taking a helpful stance toward others, it's much more likely you will get your other important tasks accomplished.

Don't take my word for it; watch and listen to Lou for yourself.

Please share your strategies for getting this school year off to a productive start so far.

Maurice Elias

Prof. of Psychology, Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional Learning Lab, Director, the Collaborative Center for Community-Based Research and Service

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DJ Mulvany's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I believe that greetings go a long way in creating a relationship with our students. Some things that I do that help be more effective are making eye contact with students. This shows that we have an interest and that we are not just going through the motions. Engaging in conversation is also a nice way to show that we care. It could range from how their weekend was, to how they did at their game or even at the school play. These are all little things that go a long way in making students feel welcomed and comfortable in our classes.

Barbara Gantwarg's picture
Anonymous (not verified)


I like the idea, especially how it shows who has the authority in a passive way. I would like to try it.

Did this make the students feel more at ease?

Barbara Gantwarg
Walden University

Ashley Hughes's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I totally agree with you. We should tell our students to have a good day or ask them how their weekend went. As an educator, showing the students you care can go a long way. The students began to feel comfortable around you and they are not afraid to ask questions anymore. I feel having a student-teacher relationship makes the outcome much greater because you personally know the needs of your student. For instance, you know they are too shy to give the answer out loud so, you have them right it down and hold it up. Accomdating each student and getting to know them as an individual can make learning effective.

Jamie Cooke's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I share your goal! I, too, am really not mean. I call it ruling with an iron fist in a velvet glove. Discipline has always been a weak point as I like to have fun with the kids, but it can easily get out of control. Reigning them back in sometimes takes much effort. But I do enjoy talking to them and knowing what makes them tick and you are right, that holds a lot of water in their eyes. It makes it easier to deal with them.

Jamie Cooke's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

High expectations is a key element to the success of our students. It is said that I hold too high a bar in my classroom at times. I do not agree. I am the toughest in my grade level,but if you are too easy on the students, they will grow up not knowing how to work to their full potential. I am not saying to be unfair and hold them accountable for subject matter that is above their head, just make it so that it is continually challenging. Tell your students what your expectations are of them. If they see that you care, and believe in them, they will work hard to reach your expectations of them thus raising their own bar. Truly believing in them and showing it will go far.

Anna's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Katherine and Cindy,
I do agree that it is important to greet your children first thing in the morning. Simple greetings can easily build a child's trust in us, as their teachers. I also think that Maurice's comment about empowering one's colleagues is important. I feel that communication among colleagues can increase one's mental health. We need to have a few people who we can talk to, who understand where we are coming from. This can come from conferences and staff development days as well. Teachers can also share ideas with one another and strategies that worked or have not worked for them. With each other's support, we can all become better teachers. Thank you Maurice, I really enjoyed reading this blog and all the comments that were posted!

Annalisa Bond's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Greeting your students as they come into the classroom I think can set the mood for the day. Sometimes my students are coming into me from a restless night or empty bellies. I can usually tell the type of mood they are just by the expressions on their faces. Sometimes I go to the cafeteria while their eating breafast and just chat with them. My students enjoy building a relationship with me other than in the classroom. I too, believe that this is way to show my students they I do care about them persoanlly and not just academically. So in the end, I would have to agee with meeting and greeting in the morning. I also think sending them off to dismissal is important. When I drop my students off to the bus sometimes I ask for a hand shake or a high five.

Annalisa Bond
Walden University

Lindsay Beck's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I greet each of my Pre-K students every day when they get off the bus. I say good morning to them and I call them by name. Names are really important to me and I make it a point to always say a child's name, I encourage them to use each other's names and I don't respond to "teacher" or "hey you." Every student gets a high five before they get on the bus to go home. Once again I call them each by name and tell them "I'll see you tomorrow." I think it is so important to have this kind of connection with your students. They need to know that your are excited that they came to school, even if you are having a bad day and would really rather be somewhere else. For some kids, school is the best part of their day. When I see that a child is upset I will pull them aside in the classroom and tell them that if they want to talk to me about something I will listen. Building positive relationships with students is crucial to classroom management and individual instruction. You have to know your students and your students have to know you care.
Lindsay Beck
Walden University - Graduate Student

Tia Little's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi Susan. I was drawn to your post because we have something in common, morning duty at the main door of our elementary schools. I take this very seriously because some mornings, kids get off of the bus very sad about leaving their moms, dads, and siblings. Often, all it takes is a warm smile, a hug, and telling them to have a good day, like you stated. Also it's true that some of the students have such bad home lives and they don't know what it's like to hear kind words.

CClark's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am agreeing with the the statement regarding collaboration, it is the key to working smater. All educators should be allotted time to sit and plan with other educators in the same field. Teaching is becoming an 24 hour job. The responsibilities have to be delegated in order for "us" to maintain our sanity.

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