Exceptional teachers bring passion for their subject and a love of learning to their classroom. They want to make a difference in their student’s lives. They connect with their students. And they know a few key things too. Don’t worry, exceptional teachers don’t always start that way. They start out good and keep learning and developing their own knowledge and skills.
What exceptional teachers know
There are many things exceptional teachers know. Here are five things that help set exceptional teachers apart from others.
Classroom management skills
If your classroom is chaotic, it’s hard for kids to learn anything. While a classroom where problems never occur exists only in a fantasy world, exceptional teachers work to set up a classroom where things flow smoothly. They set expectations and procedures for everything from lining up to how people treat others in the class. They model the behavior they want to see and keep a sense of humor. And they have classroom management tools to help them deal with problem behaviors or head them off before they start.
How to teach reading and math (and keep it fun)
It’s no secret that I didn’t really know how to teach kids to read when I started teaching. I was piecing together different ideas (not a bad approach on its own), but I didn’t have a clear understanding of the reading skills kids need to know to read effectively. I changed that by continuing to learn. (Bonus tip: Exceptional teachers never stop learning themselves. They pick up new techniques and skills. They learn about different needs students have.)
Exceptional teachers understand how kids learn and know different approaches and activities to help them do so. And they know that engaged kids are more likely to get something out of a lesson. Exceptional teachers know when to bring in games and activities to lighten things while continuing to focus on core topics and key learning objectives.
How to adapt
Exceptional teachers know how to adapt lesson plans for the specific needs of each child in the class—and do. They also know how to adapt when a lesson doesn’t go as planned. That may mean stepping back and realizing that the class needs more information or another skill before they can do the planned lesson. It may mean having something else to do if the lesson doesn’t take as long as planned. It also means shaking off a bad day and trying again.
Exceptional teachers adapt to schedule changes, makeshift classrooms and other unexpected situations, always keeping student learning at the forefront.
How to take care of themselves
Perhaps when I say “exceptional teacher,” you think of somebody who gives teaching everything they’ve got. Exceptional teachers are dedicated and bring their best to each day with their class, but they also know that burnout is real. They take steps to stay recharged, so they can keep showing up as an exceptional teacher.
Being an exceptional teacher doesn’t mean you never leave the school or that every weekend is spent preparing lessons. In fact, you’ll be a better teacher if you take some time off and focus on yourself—even if you feel like you don’t have time. Even just attending to the basics of teacher self-care can make a huge difference in your morale and the energy and attitude you bring to class.
Where to get help
You don’t become an exceptional teacher by going it alone. You learn from more experienced teachers. You seek out workshops or courses on things you need to learn. You find resources online from tips on time and classroom management to students to games and activities to enliven lessons. You have colleagues you turn to when things aren’t working. You connect with teachers outside your area and learn about initiatives and best practices elsewhere. Exceptional teachers know where to get support and aren’t afraid to ask questions or learn something new.
Are you an exceptional teacher? Whether you are or you’re striving to be, the New Teacher Support Program can help you thrive. With information from experienced teachers and connection from colleagues plus plenty of resources to tap into, you can develop confidence and gain ease while learning and developing the skills of exceptional teachers.