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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

Professor, Rutgers University Psychology Department and Edutopia Blogger

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

Professor, Rutgers University Psychology Department and Edutopia Blogger
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Comments (78)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Judi's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I also share the same enthusiasm as you do for working together. I have been lucky enough to work with a great team of people who have always loved to collaborate. There are so many benefits to working together. It's fun, time efficient, and you learn so much from each other.
I also see the importance of greeting each child personally. Who doesn't like to be acknowledged. I feel that it shows how important they truly are!

Elizabeth Cole's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am currently substituting and finishing my Master's online with Walden University. I find it essential to be at the door and greeting the students as they arrive each day. I live in the same community and have children in the school that I work in. The students are happy to see me and I am also able to see how their morning was (bus ride, etc) and be able to catch those possible emotional problems and get their day off on the right foot. This is the first time I have commented and I really enjoyed what this article had to offer.

Lori ,Youngstown,OH 's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I greet everyone of my students individually as they walk into my room. I feel that it sets the mood for the day. Also I am able to tell what child might be having a bad day, so I know that thier performance in the classroom might be a little off, or I try to talk to the students to see if their is anything that I can do to help.

Mandy Hackney's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Greeting students is key to starting their day off right! I always loved giving my students a high five in the morning when they came in. When you reach your hand out to a student first thing in the morning and give that student a high five, they immediately have to smile. I have to agree with Lou and say this is essential. I also agree with Lou in that you have to set things that seem most important for that day and do them. I sometimes find myself getting overwhelmed with the many tasks to be done in a day. If you prioritze the most important ones, and just focus on getting those done, you can do the rest later. High five to all the great teachers out there!

Cheryl Stock's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I believe that student's need to see a smile on a teachers face and hear a greeting come out of their mouth as soon as they enter the building each day. I say hello to the kids each day as if I was the first person that greeted them in the morning. The truth is, you may be the first smile of the day for them.

Kristen Lind's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am very lucky to work with a great team who collaborates on a regular basis. This has made my first couple years of teaching go much more smoothly than I had originally thought they would. We are able to share ideas and I am able ask for advice when I need it. Working together cooperatively is imperative in our profession. I completely agree that something as simple as a nice friendly, "Hello," can go a long with not only students, but also your colleagues. People feel good when they are noticed. Greeting each student by name and saying some small compliments, such as, "I like that jacket, is it new?" can make a child feel cared about and brings a smile to their face. Noticing small things and making a comment on it can change a child's emotional state from bad to good in seconds.

Kristen Lind
Eaton Elementary
Kindergarten Teacher

Alisha Stratton's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have always had an open door policy in my classroom, which basically gives the students the opportunity to come and just speak their mind to me. I feel I have earned students' trust and comfort because of my attempts to establish more personal relationships with them. It's more than just a "Good morning. Welcome to class." It's calling each student by name and asking how their day is going. It's attending their club events or athletic competitions cheering them on. It's making yourself available everyday, before or after school, to help a student who is struggling to grasp a concept. I believe doing these things helps students open up, and it's great knowing they trust you enough to come to you with either good news or troubling news.

Alisha Stratton - Walden University

Katherine Rogge's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree that meeting and greeting your students adds an extra pick-me-up to any students' day. I try to also add an extra dimension to that. My school has us pick up our students from the cafeteria, go to the bathroom, and walk back to class. Since we are at the absolute other end of the school, this gives me time to not only say good morning to my students, but also to pick out 3-4 different students every day and ask them more specific questions about family, home, what they did over the weekend, etc. By just taking these few minutes extra to talk to my kids, I establish a repertoire with them and also let them know that I truly care about them and their lives outside of school.

Katherine Rogge
Walden University, Graduate Student

Dave's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

One of my goals this year has been to be nicer. I am not a mean teacher by any means, but I have found that sometimes when dealing with kids who are behavior problems, I get better results when I discipline them with a smile, than a frown. It is easier to smile at a child who is getting on your last nerve, if you know them a little bit. So taking the time to get to know students can be helpful with discipline. I think if you have spent even a few more minutes talking with a student, you will find easier and better ways to talk to them and they are more likely to listen.

Jillian Goff's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Alisha,
I think that your open door policy is a great idea. I feel that students need to know they can trust us. Before that can happen, they must feel that they have a relationship with us. Even with adults, we must have a relationship with others before we can trust them and open up to them. I attend various sporting events to show students that I am more than their teacher, I am their advocate, ally, teacher, and help if they need it. It also helps me develop relationships with their parents. In my school, not all parents come to PTO or conferences, but they will come to a football game to watch their child play. This gives me a chance to talk to them in between plays and just to mention something positive their child has done. A good relationship with both the parent and the child is essential.

Jillian Goff
Walden University, graduate student

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