One of the primary characteristics of a fantastic educator is self-reflection. Challenging yourself to do a better job next time is the hallmark of successful teaching, and, when you think about it, really any profession. Here are two things middle school science teachers should do in 2022 to have a better year:
Why you should build relationships
The name of the game in education, 2022 and every year before this, is building relationships. Students learn from teachers they like and respect. Building relationships eliminates behavior problems and promotes academic engagement also. It also makes kids happy, and why would you be a teacher if you don’t like kids? The illusion that there needs to be a separation between students and teachers (i.e. “Don’t smile until Christmas”) is a complete fallacy. A happy byproduct is that you’ll have a better time teaching if you genuinely know and like your students.
How do you build relationships with middle schoolers?
You don’t have to play Minecraft or wear sweats to school. Not all teachers are extroverts, so here’s my quick 5 point list of relationship building activities:
- Talk to your kids – what did you do this weekend, what’s your dog’s name, what are you looking forward to next year?
- Tell them about yourself, show them pictures from your vacation and tell them the funny thing that happened at Dunkin that morning.
- Greet them at the door.
- Spend a few minutes each day, maybe during your warmup or closure, playing something like Would you rather or 2 truths and a lie.
- Go to their events. I try to make it to at least one game or match for every team every year – one basketball game, one field hockey game, one fencing meet, one concert. Kids (and parents, and administrators) notice and remember.
Take it easy on yourself
When I wrote “Things Teachers should do in 2022,” I certainly didn’t mean that there should be more things on your plate. We’re already stretched just about as thinly as possible with more and more responsibilities (SGOs, PDPs, CAPs, PLCs, PBLs, etc) and less and less time (“Cover this class because 8 teachers are quarantined today” and “Do bathroom duty so no one steals the sink and posts it on TikTok”). Look, I get it. 2020 and 2021 weren’t great for a lot of us and things still don’t feel quite settled yet. There’s some fear about what 2022 will bring. Teachers in 2022 will be happier, and have happier students, if everyone prioritizes a little self care.
The second thing I think all teachers should do in 2022 is to make their lives a little easier. Whether that means hiring help around your house so you don’t have to clean, or ordering dinner so you don’t have to cook, find places where you can give yourself a little grace. In the classroom, we still have responsibilities, but there are easy ways to cut corners without cutting education.
Here’s my quick 5 ways to make teacher life easier:
- Don’t grade everything. Although my students complete a bellringer and an exit slip every day, I hardly ever grade them.
- Download free resources. There are a ton available online. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Don’t recreate the wheel. Use last year’s test. Use the same lab that the teacher across the hall is using. There are a bazillion resources available for under $5 on TpT – surely a few extra hours that you don’t need to create a workshop is worth $5. I’m also offering 22% off all orders on the JustAddH2OSchool store through February 1st with code 2022. Click here to shop!
- Use self-grading resources. Assess using Google forms and the grading is done for you.
- Take something off your plate if you can – maybe you don’t need to change your bulletin board this month, and maybe you can email that parent instead of calling.
What can you do?
At my job, I can’t drink coffee when I want to. I can’t always use the bathroom when I want to. There are only a few things in a teacher’s life that is controllable. If you’re willing to listen to an old teacher’s advice, here it is. Control what you can. Make it easier for you and better for your kids at the same time.
I hope your 2022 is wonderful and that you remember all the reasons you became a teacher! I hope you hear your students say “You’re going to love this class!” when a new student comes in. I hope the relationships you build help make this year the best yet!