Every time we end a school year, we always reflect upon what went well throughout the year and where we need to improve. Between the two of us, we have 26 years of experience teaching fourth grade. That’s a lot of reflection time! As the school year comes to an end, we often have students tell us that we are their “favorite teacher.” Don’t get us wrong… we know that this is a phrase that most students say to every teacher they have. In no way are we trying to say that we think that we are every student’s favorite teacher. We wish, right?! What we are saying is that we do have multiple students coming back to us each year after they leave our school and they still tell us that fourth grade was one of their absolute favorite years. So why is that? This is the question that we found ourselves reflecting upon at the end of this school year.
So What Does It Take To Make A Teacher “The Favorite?”
Here is our “Top 5 List!” Are ya ready? We will be working our way backwards to the number one way to be that “favorite teacher.”
#5: Be a Teacher With Clear Expectations
We all know that children need clear expectations. It is not a new idea. In order for students to learn they have to feel safe. When students know what is going to happen on a daily basis and what behaviors are acceptable, they feel safe and are ready to learn. To us, clear expectations means three things: routines, behavior expectations, and work expectations.
Routines are a part of having clear expectations. Routines are crucial to a child enjoying your classroom. Some examples of routines are: posting the daily schedule, knowing how to enter or exit the room, attendance and lunch count procedures, etc… This is a lot for a teacher to remember! We can’t tell you how many times we forgot to do something and the class fell apart. Here’s the secret we have learned over the years. Are ya ready? Here it is: YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO IT ALL! Guess what? There are kids in your class. One more secret… kids love to help! We have found that the easiest way to make sure that your routines happen is to assign jobs for your students to do! How many times have you planned for a sub and found yourself explaining every little detail so that the day can operate smoothly. If you put your students in charge of routines, all you have to write in the sub plans are: “The students run the day. Enjoy!” Sounds a little crazy, right? Nope. We do it. We promise. It works. Your students will thank you.
Clear expectations means that you have set up clear behavior expectations. Students should know what behaviors are acceptable. They will have more time to enjoy their learning in your room if the class knows how to behave. In our classrooms, we only have one rule. RESPECT. This one rule covers everything. In the beginning of the year, we hold frequent classroom meetings to discuss what respect looks like. If there is a frequent problem, hold another classroom meeting and let the students (not you) discuss the behavior and come up with a solution. Put it in their hands! Peer pressure is a wonderful thing! We want you to think about 5 behavior problems you have had this year. Seriously! Write them down or say them out loud! No, but really! Okay, can each one be corrected by asking the child if it was respectful? It’s fool-proof. Keep it simple.
Work habits are another important part of having clear expectations. Students will try to get away with doing as little work as possible! We all know that! Do you want to be that teacher that they know they can trick, or do you want them to respect you? If a child turns something in that doesn’t match your expectations, give it back! If you hold your students accountable for doing their work with excellence (Did you catch that? WITH EXCELLENCE) your students will take pride in their work and learning. There is a difference between just doing an assignment to get it done and turned in versus spending time on an assignment and being proud of the outcome. Your students will thank you (over time) and bump you up their list to that coveted “favorite teacher” title.
#4: Be a Teacher Who Teaches
Okay, here’s one that we are a firm believer in. How many of us know of teachers who like to look like their students are busy learning, but really they’re just trying to keep those kids busy and quiet with something… anything until that final, glorious bell rings at the end of the day. Are you guilty of this? Probably not because the fact that you are reading this shows how dedicated you are to your calling! There are teachers that “teach” and teachers that REALLY TEACH! At the end of the year, when students look back at their year with you, what do you want them to say? We know that we want our students to say: “Wow, I never thought I could do everything I did this year!” We want them to be pumped about the academic language that they are now using and the amount of books that they have read. When students grow and reach that “unobtainable” goal, they will have YOU, their “favorite teacher,” to thank for guiding them!
#3: Be a Positive and Happy Teacher
Here’s a biggie! A lot of times, we focus on the way our classroom looks or the lessons that we teach, but how often do we focus on ourselves? YOU are the most important part of your classroom! YOU are what matters to your students! YOU! How much do you smile throughout your day? Do you sprinkle little jokes and bits of humor throughout your day? This is a much needed break for you and your students! Keep it fun! Students need to see the happy side of you! When you’re happy, your students are happy! When you’re positive, they’re positive! We have all seen teachers that grumble about how terrible their class is or how unmotivated or lazy their students are. Don’t be that teacher! Be positive! Be happy! Take care of yourself. Do things that make you happy when you’re not at work so that you can bring the happy and positive teacher your students need and desire to your classroom every day.
#2: Be a Caring Teacher
Student relationships are EVERYTHING! Take the time to get to know each of your students. We love conferencing with our students about their learning. Conferencing can be a huge and overwhelming idea that turns most teachers off. They might say, “I don’t have time for that,” or “I talk to my students all day long.” Here’s our question to you, “What about that child who doesn’t feel comfortable in whole class discussions, or for that matter, even small group discussions? Is that voice ever heard?” We were both one of those students who would NEVER share anything personal in a group setting. Set up one-on-one conferencing with your students. Here’s how we accomplish this “daunting” task. We conference with every child one-on-one every two weeks. During our 30 min independent reading/ reader’s workshop time, we conference with 3 students, for 10 minutes each. We have a class size of 30 students, so at the end of two weeks, we have conferenced with each one. We start each conference with a quick little open conversation and then go into our academics. You will be amazed at how much you will learn during these quick little conferences. You will get to know them, and they will get to know you and how much you care about them!
#1: Be a Teacher Who Gives Them What They Want!
Here’s the million dollar answer for being that “Favorite Teacher!” Drum roll, please…. Are you ready? Cue the black drape being pulled from the answer! BAM! GIVE YOUR STUDENTS WHAT THEY WANT! Your students want FUN! They want a fun teacher, they want learning to be fun and they want to do fun activities where they barely know they’re learning! The Rigorous Owl’s saying is, “If you’re bored, they’re bored.” Stop the boredom! If you dread coming to work every day or if you’ve done the same thing year after year, change it up! Try something new! Transform your room for the day! Teach outside! Dress up! Do something you never thought you would do! Sounds like a lot of work, right? Guess what? It is! BUT, it’s also fun! Get your grade level on board with you to lessen the work load! We worked side by side doing our own thing for the first three years of teaching and then slowly started doing classroom events together. After nine years of operating this way, we would both never go back. We are constantly looking for new things to try and new ways to bring content to life for our students. When we work together, it is half the work. Totally worth it. Let them experience learning first hand. Let them get excited! If you are learning about Native Americans, why not have them dress up like Native Americans for the day? Let other students see how much fun your students are having. You will probably get a few eye rolls from other teachers, but slowly, maybe they’ll ask what you’re doing and want to get in on the fun too. Being a child’s “favorite teacher” is contagious!
SO NOW WHAT?
Now that you’ve read about the five ways to be that “favorite teacher,” we want to help get you started! We love spoiling our followers and showering them with freebies and tips! You are a superstar! Our goal is to inspire you and send you off into your classroom with the tools you need to be successful. We have prepared one helpful freebie or link for each of these five ways to be that “favorite teacher!” Enjoy!
#5: Be a Teacher with Clear Expectations
#4: Be a Teacher Who Teaches
Check out how we plan our year and make sure that we cover all of our standards every year! We will be posting many more posts just like this one in the 2017-2018 school year. Be sure to follow us to be notified! Click here to see how we plan for the year!
#3: Be a Happy and Positive Teacher
I’m sure you are not the only one who could use a reminder once in a while about being a positive and happy teacher. We need constant reminders! We decided to post these in our staff lounge and workroom! You and your staff will enjoy this FREEBIE! Click on the image below!
#2: Be a Teacher Who Cares
Download this colorful reminder to post by your desk! Click on the image below!
#1: Give Them What They Want!
See for yourself what a classroom event looks like! We do many!
Need some resources to get you started?
We’ve got you covered! Click any of the pictures below! We chose some that would help you out with the 5 Ways to be That “Favorite Teacher!”