Things the Best Teachers Should Know
No matter what kind of teacher you are, there are a few things that are essential to your success as a teacher. Not only that, but they are critical to your students’ success as well. Different techniques can be employed depending on the subject you are teaching and the age of your students, but there are three things that you must know if you want to be a teacher who effects change and learning in the minds of your students.
Teachers have to know what they teach and how to teach it. That’s quite a bit by itself. Those who want to really understand education go beyond the basic requirements.
First, every student wants to be good at what they are doing or studying, but someone before you will have told your student that they have limits. If you accurately assume this, then you will realize that you are always trying to build a confidence in your student that is not naturally there. That will require more effort on your part at first. You will need to gain your student’s trust and willingness to learn. Once you have overcome this first and biggest hurdle, your student will rise to the same level of effort, if not more, in order to please you and learn from you. But first, you must overcome the “nay-sayer” who said your student couldn’t do “it.”
Professionals in all occupations are exposed to staff development opportunities that are intended to enhance their skills, but there are always important topics on the periphery of any job that are usually learned by active, voluntary searching. Education needs people who know about the underlying explanations of what really works. These people may operate quietly as expert teachers or they may share they knowledge to improve teaching generally.
Ideas and Concepts for the Best Teachers
Teachers benefit from learning beyond the minimum to be certified. Having an organized mind is as important as having an organized desk. Mental organization helps teachers understand why students do what they do, for all teachers are culturally limited in some way that creates a barrier to understanding.
Furthermore, teachers may not understand their own motives or will have trouble accepting new ideas which they find troubling. The following three topics can help teachers understand the behavior and beliefs of others as well as themselves.
Teachers Need to Know the Basics of Attribution Theory
This theory helps clarify why students vary in the type and amount of effort to a task. Simply put, attribution theory provides an explanation for how students perceive the source of their success or failure. Students sometimes place the cause of failure outside of their control. For example, failure might be blamed on poor teaching. This is a face-saving device that holds the student less responsible for failure.
This placement of blame is not a conscience effort, but a learned coping device. Teachers are fully familiar with students who seem totally unsurprised that they failed a test and my even laugh about it. These students likely see the failure as inevitable. Successful academic efforts do not necessarily help motivate such students because they do not give themselves credit for the achievement – they are likely to believe in “luck” as a determining factor of success.
Teachers Need to Know the Basics of Reinforcement Theory
Reinforcement theory explains the specifics of motivation. To know that motivation exists and that it helps determine human behavior is not enough. Teachers need to understand that the motivational effects of a “thing” vary according to how reinforcement is applied.
Reinforcement theory helps fill in the gaps about how to maximize motivation and how teachers might unwittingly reinforce inappropriate behavior.The applications and limitations of different types of motivation depend on our knowledge of this theory.
Teachers Need to Know the Basics of Cognitive Dissonance
Cognitive dissonance can apply to any one of any age. It is best explained as the uncomfortable feeling that people that people get when new information mentally confronts an established belief. The two conflicting beliefs create a need for resolution which may be difficult if both seem equally plausible. Cognitive dissonance can be of importance in the acceptance or rejection of new information. Teachers see it in the faces of students frequently when new information is presented.
Teachers are subjected to cognitive dissonance when ideas about teaching, students, etc. conflict with ideas they have held for years. Being aware of dissonance allows people to accept new learning if they can learn to evaluate the information so that it “fits” into their cognitive world.
Attribution theory, reinforcement theory, and cognitive dissonance all relate to motivation theory. Understanding these concepts broadens teachers’ understanding of how motivation works and how new information is processed. All theories have important implications for teaching, especially if teachers wish to reach beyond content knowledge and basic teaching skills for professional self-improvement.
Finally, you must realize that every student will have some needs that they are not aware of. Your role will be to help them identify what they need in order to achieve their full potential, but there is a strategy to do this. Teachers do this best when they mentally “adopt” each of their students as if they were their own children.
By doing this, you will have a more vested interest in directing them towards greater skill in any subject area. What you would give in time, effort, and attention to your own child, will be the same level of direction you need to give to all of your students when they are in your learning environment.
Know these things, and know them well. Whatever you teach will be greatly enhanced if you do.