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Ways to Work Smarter as a Teacher

Maurice J. Elias

Prof. of Psychology, Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development 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.

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Maurice J. Elias

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

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Jamie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I thought this was a very inspiring blog!

I believe collaboration is key with any job, but especially in the field of education. I collaborate with my colleagues and students daily. I have found that really taking the time to get to know your students and showing them that you really care is essential. Not only will you see their side of things, but they will also be willing to work harder for you. The harder you work, the lighter the load on the teacher. I feel that I would not be in very good shape teachingwise if not for collaboration with my colleagues. I receive loads of beneficial advice and ideas from them. This really makes the difficult days easier.

Collaboration with parents is also extremely important! The more you work with them and converse with them, the easier your year will be.

Jamie McArthur
Third Grade Teacher
Walden University Graduate Student

Bridget's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Right now I am at school on a Sunday trying to get ready for my week. I get to school about an hour before kids arrive and I leave about an hour to hour and a half after kids leave. I think I work my butt off when I am here. I never feel that I can get ahead. I coming to realize that it might not happen. Any suggestions?

Suzy's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I would also agree that collaboration is one of the keys to success in the classroom. As a new 3rd grade teacher, I have found my 3rd grade parteners to be extreemly helpful getting me started in this new school year. We are also preparing our children for Indiana's achievement test called ISTEP. We have been sharing great ideas that will get us to our goal of great success with our students.

Joe Skaff's picture

Educators from all over the nation gathered at the Model Schools' Conference in Atlanta in late June. 'Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships' was the running mantra woven through every session. I visited sessions from 8-4 each day, and I found that the single most important concept of these three, the piece that we as educators must allow ourselves to 'grow into' with our kids, is that of 'Relationships.' In high school, I see the most successful teachers as being those who speak 'into' the lives of not just their students, but into the lives of ALL students. These are the teachers who stop and not just ask kids 'how are you doin' today?' but stay the minute and listen to the answer. We are going to lose kids to on-line education, to dropping out, and to those devastating things that 'take' our kids from us if we don't step up our relationship building. We cannot be just about the curriculum, about 'finishing the chapter,' and taking the AP Tests in May. We don't teach subjects! We teach KIDS!

Misty Pitts's picture

I agree with your comment that " many hands make light work." I have taught first-grade in a small Pre-K -12 school for seven years. When I began teaching, I taught in a portable classroom across the parking lot from the rest of the buildings. I received no help from my mentor teacher and in some cases no teacher's editions for the required texts. It was a very difficult year. I had to find my own way of preparing materials with countless hours researching educational sites and purchasing materials out of my own pocket. I enjoyed the students; but wondered if they were gaining as they should. I had never taught before and had no way of knowing if they gains I saw were appropriate. Shortly after that year, the other two teachers retired. I now work with two great teachers. We are able to collaborate in every area. I feel the lessons taught are much more rich and meaningful. We are able to pull projects or other applicatiosn to enhance our weekly text. I now have the same experience as you. We are very fortunate to work with such involved, caring educators.

Jeffrey Baker's picture

I am one that only feels that the task is done right when I do it myself. Over the summer I had a TA in my classroom and I had a very hard time given her stuff to do for the class because I wanted to make sure it was done right. It is very important to let fellow teachers help you or you will get burned out. Like Lou Holtz said, "Work hard, set goals, and decide on the most important things you must get done today and do them." If you follow these outlines and you know when to let others help then you will be a successful and fresh minded teacher.

Brita's picture

Greeting students so important to starting the day off right, and creating a culture of caring. At my school greeting students in the hallway is a designated duty in the morning. Classroom teachers are just outside their classrooms, other teachers and school personnel are placed throughout the building. We make sure to greet everyone we can and take extra care to greet and chat with those students who need a little attention. Students who are new to our school tend to give us strange looks for a while but soon they are smiling and saying "Hi!" as they walk by. What a great habit to get into. My principal also emphasizes the importance of greeting adults in the building. With teachers in the building it shows the students that we are all a team. Many parents have commented how friendly and helpful our staff is compared to other schools because they are greeted by every adult who walks by.

Yakima Spain's picture

I am familiar with Lou Holtz. I am a former University of South Carolina graduate. I could not agree more with his comments. As educators, we have to set goals and think about what is important and worry about the rest later. I also stand at the door when my students arrive and depart from school. I greet them with a smiling face and tell each student "Good Morning." They are always eagered to tell their stories and love to have a open ear to hear their stories. I also have a goal of making students feel like they are valuable members of our classroom community.

shanomage's picture

I am blogging for the first time,I am a student at Walden University.Since,doing this course I have had my personal beliefs reaffirmed,Additionally,I think that teachers should be engaged in meaningful collaboration to acheive maximum academic growth for all students.Often times,I have encountered meetings that involve teachers and administrators,but these meetings have never been geared towards developing students growth.Therefore ,I have proposed to administrators that we meet according to grade levels to co-ordinate and strategnize teaching approaches.

Kala's picture

Collaboration is the key and we must all work together in accomplishing our goals as teachers.

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