One Daily Teaching Habit: Improving your teaching one step at a time

The number of things that teachers need to pay attention to in a classroom can be overwhelming. We need to understand each of our individual students’ actions, and use them to uncover their thoughts. We need to pay attention to group dynamics, and how students are interacting with each other and with us. We need to tie our current teaching actions to past material and anticipate what is coming next. We need to react quickly to student questions or unanticipated comments. The classroom environment is dynamic, unpredictable, and active, and it can be difficult to pay attention to all of the things that we want to.

One of the best things that I have done to improve my teaching is to choose one daily habit to focus on for the duration of a month. For example, in calculus this fall I decided to focus on graphical explanations at every opportunity. In Real Analysis in January, I made an effort to use a graphic or flow chart to situate current topics within the larger narrative of the course. This month, as I am teaching an interdisciplinary course called “Question”, I have prioritized making sure that I tell students one thing they are doing well during each individual conversation that I have.

How do you keep a daily teaching habit? Here are some things that have helped me:

  • Clearly identify your goal at the beginning of the month or course, and find a way to measure your success each day
  • Record how often you maintain the habit, with the goal of not missing any days
  • Write your goal at the top of each day’s lesson plan, so that you see it before each class
  • Tell colleagues about your goal (depending on the students and your goal, it may also be effective to share it with students)

I find that at the end of a month, keeping my daily teaching habit becomes routine, and I no longer have to work to remember it each day. They are easier to implement than ambitious or large-scale teaching goals, and help me to see concrete ways in which I am growing as an educator.

To Think about: How could you improve your teaching? Can you distill one important way down to a simple, daily goal?

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