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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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Andrew Pass's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Personally, I agree with you about the importance of greetings. But, I'd like to offer just one tip. Use other people's names when you greet them. Everybody likes to hear the sound of their name. It simply makes them feel good. Use names and you'll find that the relationships that comprise your professional work become ever easier to manage.

Michelle Mullis's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree that collaboration is the key to getting more done. I am in my twelfth year in the classroom and this is the first time that I have been fortunate enough to be involved in a team of educators that truly collaborates well together. We all have the same values and goals and all desire the best for our students. We have been in school for eight weeks this year and I have never had a more energizing start to a school year. Because of the synergy in our collaboration, we are producing a product that is far better than any of us could produce on our own. I am a firm believer that "many hands make light work."

I also definitely agree that being warm and genuine and showing concern for the well-being of the students, colleagues and parents that we interact with definitely does make our work load easier. A smile and a kind greeting are simple gestures that can have a big impact. I think a positive attitude and modeling of these behaviors becomes contagious. Students want to work hard for a teacher that is connected and caring. Parents are more supportive of a teacher who communicates with them effectively and in a positive way. I appreciate your reminders for ways that we can work smarter this school year.

Shaune Roberts's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have participated in collaboration before, however not to the extent I am this school year. We are meeting three times a weekm and I am learning something new from it daily. It is important to collaborate with colleagues to bounce ideas off of one another. I see how my students benefit from the knowledge I gain from others.

I agree we must work smarter. We as educators reach our students on a deeper level as long as we constantly focus on their SECD.

Not familiar with Lou Holtz, however his words of a daily greeting goes a long way.

Mackenzie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Great point Michele! Forming relationships with students is a great way to boost student learning for free. I have found that if students feel connected to you as a teacher they may be more invested in what is going on in your classroom. When I express interest in the lives of my students outside of class, it boosts their confidence and gives them the courage to take risks in my classroom. They see me as on their side, not a judging authority figure waiting for their next mistake. Forming bonds with my students so that they want to be successful in my class is the most cost-effective solution to boosting achievement that I have found.

Paloma's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Michelle,
I share the enthusiasm you have for a team that collaborates. I too have worked on a team that shares the same values, beliefs, and motivation. It was almost as if we were all thinking the same thing, finishing each other sentences, and feeling the same. Those years of teaching were fulfilling and successful because of the collaboration and support I knew I had. We grew confident, motivated and were willing to put in the work because we all were taking part. We formatted assessments, designed curriculum, and tested new strategies while consistently meeting to discuss our success and challenges. Still today, I thank these colleagues for a beneficial learning experience and look forward to opportunity to do it again. Today, in working with a new team, there are the challenges and attempts to get on the same page. We do not share the same sentiments all the time but are the learning the value of compromise and open communication.

Paloma
Kainalu Elementary
Kailua
Grade 3

Rusty's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Names are good. Greetings are good. Even better - try to have a brief conversation with a student. It might only be 30 seconds or a minute, but it will be appreciated.

Deb Gallant's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

You are absolutely correct and I will concisely be use a student's name with my greetings. I can honestly say I do most of the time, but not always. Thank you for the reminder how important a person's name is to them.

Michele's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi Brian. I really like your point about teaching our students to collaborate. I teach science to high school students with special needs (functioning on a 3rd-4th grade level) and when I assign them to work in partners for a lab, they always want to pick their friends to work with. This is where I step in and choose their partners, forcing them to learn to collaborate with people they might not be friends with. This is always a challenge, but often times, the students learn to work well together for the good of their grade. Some lab partners flounder, but that's when I go over and try to help them along with their communication and expression of ideas. Collaboration is such an important skill that all teachers should be working on, as well as teaching their students about and giving them opportunities to practice.

Constance Patterson's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This is so true. Some mornings my students bombard me with stories about what they did the day before, over the weekend,etc. They are so fascinated and eager to tell me that I just have to take a minute to sit and listen to what they have to say. Yes, it was very much appreciated and as a result, I have a better relationship with my students.

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!

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