Likely, most of us agree that teaching can be tiring and difficult. However, many may not realize how even the simplest actions (or avoidance of actions, in this case) can make a huge impact on students' learning environment. Here are five common teaching mistakes that could negatively affect your classroom community.
1. Acting as the 'authority' in the classroom
By saying this, I do not expect you to give your students free rein. As the teacher, you are the leader in the classroom, and, ultimately, you have the last word. However, I do believe that a teacher's relationship with his or her students should be based on mutual respect. Children are generally more responsible, intuitive, and capable than we give them credit for. They are also more responsive to and accepting of, classroom requirements when they feel they've played a role in their creation. Acting as the end-all-be-all and refusing to accept suggestions from your students can leave them feeling unheard and less-than. Teachers are meant to prepare students to be active, independent members of society, and the classroom is their first chance to exercise these important life skills. Being a successful teacher means creating a classroom community in which everyone plays an equal part.
2. Inflexibility within your lesson plan
Lesson plans are meant to be precise and organized. Teachers live and breathe by them. But some of the best teachable moments are the ones that are unplanned. If you are having a class discussion and the conversation leads to an unrelated but important topic, follow it! Just because it isn't listed on your lesson plan doesn't mean it's not worth talking about. You can always come back to the lesson plan later, but it's not every day students are genuinely interested in a subject. These unique opportunities are the ones your students will enjoy and remember.
3. Selective advocacy
Whether intentional or unintentional, some teachers make the mistake of letting their biases interfere with their connection to students. Certainly, you are entitled to your own opinions and beliefs- some of which may differ from those of your coworkers, students, and parents. Yet these cannot interfere with the quality of your instruction. Teachers should strive to be culturally relevant in the classroom, which means accepting all aspects of a child's background. In some instances, you may be that child's only advocate, meaning you can't pick and choose what facets of that child's life you intend to support. Don't give up your own ideology, but be sure to support the unique ideologies of your students, no matter what they be.
4. Acting 'colorblind'
As a attempt to promote equality in the classroom, the efforts of some teachers may, in fact, do the opposite. Often people mistakenly believe that the best way to make everyone feel included is to adopt a 'colorblind' mindset, so no one ethnicity is singled out or ignored. However, by not acknowledging students' cultural backgrounds, you are failing to recognize a vital aspect of their identities. Rather than brushing over race and ethnicity, teachers should actively recognize each and celebrate the unique qualities that every student brings to the classroom, using that to foster a rich and accepting learning environment.
Cold-calling is a method used by many teachers. Most of us can probably remembering it happened to use when we were students, and feeling startled or embarrassed as a result. While it is admittedly important to make sure your students are on-task and paying attention, this technique can have detrimental effects. Students might be more caught up in avoiding being called on rather than actually following the lesson. You never want your students to be motivated by fear, but by genuine interest and an internal drive for learning.