Everyone has their personal lists of how to do this or that successfully. Here's mine, such as it is.
1. You can not over-prepare
You may have an absolutely stunning lesson planned but you never know what life - the school administrators, the children, the physical setting - will throw at you. It's best to have plans B and C at your fingertips. And the more you know about the topic, the more authentic questions you can ask the students. Students love to get a teacher off-topic -- they will work harder on not doing the work than doing the work! By continually reading on my subject matter, I can remain relevant and pull them (well, most of them) back in.
2. Limit the work you take home
Managing 120 children all day without a bathroom break and barely time for a granola bar at lunch is exhausting. Find ways of leaving work at school. Your family will thank you. Your body will thank you.
One method I have found to reduce my take-home grading is to have students peer-grade whenever possible; done properly this becomes a review and additional learning opportunity.
3. Stay away from toxic faculty
Ugh. Who needs it? Personally, I have spent far too much time in the presence of toxic people.
4. Learn who your students are
Children are not well equipped to handle the stressors of everyday life and getting to know them will help you focus and differentiate your class. Know their interests. Discover their learning styles. Pair up solitary learners with social learners. They will respect you for taking an interest in their sick family member, their band, or their love of funny cat videos.
5. Engage your students as part of your team
The classroom is not 24 students learning from 1 teacher; it is 25 people learning together with a guide. Group dynamics can lead a class to great discoveries or to chaotic disaster. Work the group as a whole (see Tip 4.) Students will enthusiastically help you set up for a lab, rearrange tables for a fishbowl, collect and distribute papers. They can also be enlisted - with guidance - to lead discussions.
It's Simple Stuff.
I will remind myself of these tips throughout the year. I will not beat myself up when I find myself engaged in unbecoming gossip or overwhelmed with homework; I will just try and realign and move ahead. And I will breathe in, breathe out, repeat.
A scientist and teacher, I am a life-long learner who enjoys camping, gardening, hiking, canoeing, and figuring things out! (Figuring stuff out is what science is all about.) After 18 years as an Environmental Consultant, I began teaching high school science and love it. My writings here reflect some of my thoughts about teaching, as they occur. I look forward to conversations with other thoughtful teachers.