How to Be a Confident Teacher

This week’s Sanity Boost is in answer to a question that came in as an anonymous response to last week’s survey about topics to include in my upcoming book. If this is your question, THANK YOU for sending it!

Question: One thing I see over and over is students honing in on insecurities of new teachers. So, how do you feign confidence in your own classroom?

Answer: You don’t have to be a new teacher to feel insecure. All of us have felt that squishy nervous feeling in our stomachs that happens whenever you are in a situation you’re not quite sure you can handle. Your armpits and hands dampen. Your mouth gets dry. Your heart pounds, and you have trouble breathing. You may even get lightheaded or need to run to the bathroom.

Watch How to Be a Confident TeacherUnfortunately, kids are really good at detecting when we are feeling insecure and capitalizing on the situation to create drama and/or get out of work. You can try to fake confidence (breathing helps, as does deodorant), but wouldn’t it be better to actually HAVE confidence?

So what exactly is confidence, and where can you get it? One definition of confidence (from Dictionary.com) is “belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities.” And I think the best way to acquire a belief in your powers and abilities is to have a well-thought-out plan.

What could possibly go wrong in the classroom?I have a friend who jumps out of airplanes. He isn’t nervous about it at all, because he knows exactly what to do in just about every situation that can come up. There are protocols for what to do if the weather is bad, if the parachute doesn’t open, or if he starts to drift away from his target landing area. In other words, he has thought about what could go wrong, and made a plan to either prevent it (pack your chute correctly) or correct it (have a backup chute.)

Think of all the problems you could have in the classroomI recommend all new teachers (and experienced teachers, too) try to think of everything that can possibly go wrong in their classrooms. Then, make a procedure that will prevent that thing from happening, and teach it to your students. If I’m worried that students will sharpen pencils while I’m talking, I teach them what to do if their pencil breaks. If I think they’ll cheat on a test, I teach them how to arrange their desks. And so on.

Experienced teachers have a big advantage here, because they have had so many things go wrong already that they instinctively know what to plan for. But new teachers can do it, too. The problem is, many of them don’t. I know I didn’t. My idea of how to prepare for the classroom was to go to the teacher supply store and buy a bunch of thematic lesson plan books. What I should have done was think about the logistics of my classroom, and write a bunch of lesson plans to use at the beginning of the school year.

I always say “Confidence is natural when you know what to do.” And thinking it through ahead of time will help you know what to do.

Katrina Ayres, PositiveTeachingStrategies.com

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What If I Totally Blew It?

At the end of the school year, after the books are boxed up, the walls are stripped, and the furniture is stacked, it’s natural to reflect back over the year and think about what went well and what didn’t. Sometimes these memories are invited, and sometimes they sneak up and pounce on you when you least expect them – such as when you’re cracking open your first-of-the-summer trashy paperback novel or I-don’t-have-to-do-lesson-plans-this-weekend beer.

Watch How to Recover From a Really Big Mistake on YouTubeFor me, the unwelcome reflections usually involve some embarrassing and/or completely inexcusable mistake I made. Like the one I made last week when I totally forgot about a sub job I had committed to. I felt so horrible! I kept blaming myself and reflecting on how much I had inconvenienced everyone from the teacher I was supposed to work for, to the school secretary, to the rest of the staff at the school, to the kids.

Not helpful, really. My self-blame just made me feel worse, and did nothing to make the situation any better. But I couldn’t seem to stop myself.

Then I started thinking about our students. How do we coach them to deal with mistakes? If it’s an academic mistake, we may ask them to erase it and do it over. If it’s a social mistake, it might be to apologize and find a way to “make it right.” This is great, if it’s possible. But what if it’s not?

Maybe we can take the artist’s approach. I was taught that there are no mistakes in art. If something shows up that you didn’t intend, you try to see what it’s telling you and integrate it into the project in some way.

That’s what I’m doing now by writing this. It’s also what I encourage you to do if you look back over your year and notice some things that didn’t go the way you had hoped. Were there some actions you wouldn’t take again? If so, and if it’s possible, take the academics approach and correct it for next year. If that’s not possible, take the artist approach and ask yourself, “In what way could this mistake become a healthy part of my teaching practice? How could I use this story to help myself and others?”

Our profession isn’t easy, and it’s inevitable we will make mistakes, sometimes big ones. Luckily we don’t have to be perfect to be effective. It takes courage to continue on, and faith to see that you ARE making a difference in the world. Thank you for all you do and for your willingness to try it again next year.

And now, break out that book or beer and have an amazing summer! We’ll see you next Fall!

Katrina Ayres, PositiveTeachingStrategies.com

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What’s the BEST Classroom Management Strategy?

In my role as a substitute teacher, my number one goal is the same as a doctor’s – do no harm.

I want the regular teacher to come back the next day with no messes to clean up or discipline issues to resolve, so that the class can move forward as if the regular teacher had never left.

Well, that’s the goal.

What's the BEST Classroom Management Strategy. Watch on Awesome Teacher Nation TV on YouTubeThis week I subbed in a really great class. The kids were calm when they came in. They seemed willing to give me a chance. They went along with my incentive program. They were flexible. They were helpful. They had to be patient because their teacher was unexpectedly sick and had not left very detailed plans. I was winging it and the students knew it. We got along pretty well the first day.

I thought the second day would be easy. I had a better idea of the routine and was able to be better prepared academically. But when I opened the classroom door I saw the students’ faces fall. Their beloved teacher was gone again! As the day wore on their behavior deteriorated. They were less focused, less flexible, less helpful. Less nice. I reacted by becoming more controlling, less understanding, and more negative. The class and I were de-evolving in lower life forms.

As you can imagine, this is a little disheartening for a classroom management “expert” like myself. Why didn’t my classroom management techniques and strategies work?

It’s because the regular teacher uses the very best classroom management technique there is. She builds positive relationships with her students. On her wall it says “In here we treat each other with respect and kindness,” and her students clearly know they are loved. As a stranger I could be politely tolerated, but my fancy-pants techniques and strategies weren’t nearly as effective as her yearlong quest to develop a positive relationship with each and every student.

Developing those relationships (especially with THOSE students) is not always easy. It takes time and effort, sometimes superhuman effort. But in the end, love is the best classroom management technique there is.

Now go make it a great day for yourself and your students!

Katrina Ayres, PositiveTeachingStrategies.com

PS – If you enjoyed this classroom management hint, you may want to join the Awesome Teacher Nation tribe so you can get weekly positive teaching strategies, hints, and tips delivered straight to your email inbox. Join us now – it’s totally free!

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7 Strategies to Deal With The Pencil Sharpener

Nghhhhhhhhhhhhh.

There goes the pencil sharpener again, right in the middle of a spelling test. No one can hear the spelling words, and I actually feel as if the pencil sharpener is grinding into my skull.

7 Ways to Deal With the Pencil Sharpener“No pencil sharpening!” I screech. So the student sits down and immediately starts bothering everyone around him. He has nothing else to do, since he can’t take the spelling test without a pencil.

“Fine! Sharpen the pencil, but make it quick.”

And the entire class waits for the nghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh sound to stop so we can finish our activity. Then another student gives me a little smile as she presses down hard on her pencil. Snap! and the fun begins again.

The pencil sharpener is an annoyance for almost every teacher I know. Fortunately, there are many solutions. It’s just a matter of finding a something that works for you and your students. Here are seven ideas to try:

Pencil Sharpener Solution 1Teach the students when they can and cannot sharpen their pencils. No sharpening is allowed when anyone is talking or during whole-group instruction. During those times, students have to borrow a pencil from another student or the teacher. Sometimes there is a penalty for anyone who violates the pencil rule, such as having to clean the room after class. Sometimes a valuable object such as a shoe or a phone is held ransom for the pencil.

Pencil Sharpener Solution 2Teach the students what it means to be ready for class, including how many sharp pencils they should have and where they should keep them. Some teachers require two sharp pencils in the pencil tray on each student’s desk. Others ask their students to use pencil pouches with two spare pencils. I used to require my middle school students to show me a sharp pencil on their way into class.

Pencil Sharpener Solution 3Take away the big pencil sharpener altogether and ask the students to use hand sharpeners.

 

 

 

Pencil Sharpener Solution 4Have the students use erasable pens or mechanical pencils.

 

 

 

 

Pencil Sharpener Solution 5Keep a supply of sharp pencils on hand in a pencil can. Provide another pencil can for dull pencils. Students trade out their broken or dull pencil for a sharp one.

 

 

Pencil Sharpener Solution 6Each table group has a caddy with supplies to share. One person in the group has the job of keeping the supplies in good order.

 

 

 

Pencil Sharpener Solution 7Instead of using paper and pencil, use paperless options such as Google Docs and iPads as much as possible.

Do you have a solution for the Pencil Sharpener Problem that works well for you? If so, please share in the comments below so that none of us ever has to suffer through the ngggggghhhhhh interruption again!

Now go make it a great day for yourself and your students!

Katrina Ayres, PositiveTeachingStrategies.com

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