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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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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

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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Jennifer Rogers's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I find that the morning is a great time to interact with the early birds who come to class. They love it when you talk to them about things that are not school related. A favorite topic with my second grade boys is football.

Jen Rogers
Walden University, Graduate Student

Brenda Church's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Kristen I was happy to read that you have a strong system of collaboration at your school. I agree with you totally regarding the importance of collaboration within our profession. My school use to have a strong system of collaboration as well. However, over the last few years administration has been scheduling meetings during the times teachers would use for collaborative meetings. That system of collaboration has broken down over time. I was wondering, based on what you do in your district, if you have any suggestions that could help us re-establish our lines of communication? I thank you for any guidance you could give me.
Brenda Church
Special Education Teacher
Ocean Academy

Stephanie Sisak's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I attended a seminar in which the speaker suggested assigning each student a seat prior to the first day. Then on the first day stand at the door to your classroom. As each student arrives shake their hand, ask their name, introduce yourself, and instrust them where to find their seat.

I found this made an extrodinary difference in the way the whole first week ran after I followed this procedure. It elliminates the akwardness of students ffinding friends or not haveing anyone to sit with. It also demonstrates your power in the classroom in a very clear but passive manner. It makes the students feel welcome and establishes the routine of walking in and immediately taking their seat.

Barbara Gantwarg's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree with you. I have breakfast duty every morning, so I am using that time to meet and talk to students. I think that once you have a relationship beyond just the curriculum content, the students respect you more and will want to please you.

Barbara Gantwarg
Walden University

Cindy Hart's picture
Anonymous (not verified)


I couldn't agree more. I have always tried to create a relationship with my students. The best way to get to know your students is to talk to them about issues other than your class. If I notice a student with their head down, I immediately take them into my office to find out if their is a problem, or if they are just not feeling well. I think students need to feel they can trust their teachers to talk to about issues outside of school. I feel that as a educator, our job not only is to teach the curriculum to the students, but to also develope a relationship of trust with the students.

Cindy Hart
Walden University, Graduate Student

Susan Newsome's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Greeting students is very important. It can truly make their day start out on a good note. One of my duties at my elementary school is to let students in the main door in the morning. I always try to tell each one to "have a good day." Some of these children come from such terrible home environments that they never hear those simple words.

Eileen's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

One strategy I've been working on this school year is to have higher expectations from the students. I hear many students say "I can't do this." Most of the time it is because they don't want to or don't know how yet. By having expectations from my students, they will work harder to achieve that goal and realize that they can do the work. Hopefully this will give them more confidence as students also.

Julie Combs's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

When students first enter our classroom (yes ours, not mine), the hang up their coats, give me any notes then sit and start morning work. Morning work is usually a worksheet dealing with what letter we're talking about or sound we're on, etc. Our school has students eat breakfast in the morning if they want, so I have some students walk through my door at 8:50 and others show up at 9:10. For those 20 minutes, I walk around greeting students as they enter and asking them how they are. This morning, I was wandering the room asking students about their weekend and they love to share! It's amazing how just taking 60 seconds to ask a child about their life puts a smile on their face. I think it's very important to take the time to greet our kids, make them feel welcome, and seek them out to ask how they are doing.

DJ Mulvany's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

We have had several guest speakers for opening school ceremonies over the years but there is one that stands out to me. His name is Flip Flippin and he is a motivational speaker. He passionately emphasized the importance of building healthy relationships with students. He spoke about the importance of shaking the hands of each student upon entering the classroom. Eye contact was a focus also because it shows that we acknowledge them. Calling people by their fuirst name or a brief comment about their game last nigh or the school play really goes a long way. These are just a few small things that go a long way for the relationship that I have with kids. Here is the Flip Flippin group website for anyone that is interested. http://www.flippengroup.com/

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.

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