Five Things You Need to Know to be a Highly Effective Educator
Being an educator, no matter what level, requires an extensive amount of patience, selflessness and the desire to help others achieve self-actualization through knowledge. For K-12 educators, it’s teaching children and young people about various subjects and how society operates. In secondary and post-secondary education, it’s all about setting them up for success in their chosen fields. In the wake of the pandemic, the landscape of education, the way students prefer to learn, and the traditional methods educators have used to be effective in the past have all changed.
In my own experience, I’ve learned a few things that allowed me to be more effective in my teaching methods and empower students no matter where they were in terms of preparedness or learning ability. These five tips to being a highly effective educator, which I also discussed in this interview with Authority Magazine, helped me navigate the challenging landscape of the pandemic and are still proving true in the post-pandemic education world.
- Collaboration is key. That means collaborating with other teachers/faculty and support staff and with parents/students. Sometimes this also means turning over power that you might have once held dear to yourself. The formation of student councils – like student judiciary councils -- is a great example of how this can empower students and allow educators to gain great insights into how students perceive the expectations of the learning experience.
- Preparation has a new meaning today. Lesson planning and a great syllabus are still excellent approaches to preparation. In today’s world, teachers and faculty (and systems/institutions) must be prepared to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. In one of my past experiences, we spent the better part of a year preparing for the H1N1 pandemic. It turned out we didn’t need to exercise that plan – but it was available at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. And some of the things we did to prepare had just become foundational. This included an online component to every single course. This kind of preparation can be helpful in so many broad circumstances, but also in individual, personal circumstances.
- Equal and fair are not the same thing. Students must be treated according to their needs. As a faculty, the most common application of this concept comes with late work. A common phrase students hear is, “I can’t take your paper late because that would not be fair to the other students.” Such a stance, like others of this nature, is built on a premise that all students are in an equal circumstance to begin with. That is sure never the case. When I eliminated late penalties in my classroom, the result was better for students and better for me. This second part is important because some teachers/faculty begin to feel overwhelmed about the possibility of having a mountain of papers to grade at the end. That didn’t happen in my courses, with on-time submissions at relatively the same rate and very few waiting until the last minute to submit. And importantly, I spent zero time during the term negotiating with students as they presented their rationales for being late. That time was spent coaching everyone toward better learning outcomes – the part of the job that is highly motivating.
- Positivity goes a long way. A kind word to a colleague can create a compounding effect. A positive comment to a student helps them, but also helps other students who see the positive approach being taken – particularly true in a difficult situation. Positive self-talk can help on a rough day. And it has returns – the colleague you praised might be the one who picks you up when you are down. And being positive makes you feel good. I have made a practice of what I call my “Happy Friday” messages, in which I thank a colleague or give them kudos. It is a great way to end the week to find something positive to focus on. So, it gives me a great way to leave the week. And many have passed along the practice, giving that compounding effect.
- On the other hand, every day will not be a good day. This is true in any profession and when dealing with so many people daily, there are bound to be some bad days. Educators need to find some mechanisms to help them on those days – and there are plenty of suggestions on those mechanisms out there. I would emphasize that the most important thing is to take stock of how you are feeling regularly so the bad days don’t outweigh the good ones. And when you take stock and find you need some help, seek it out. It is good practice for teams to check on each other too. During the pandemic we have made a point of checking in with our faculty and staff to see how they are doing. This is a practice we need all the time – not just in a pandemic!
These lessons have served me well in my years as an educator and as a member of administration. It’s my hope that these tips will also help other educators who are striving to help their students while also taking their own well-being into account.