About Teresa

Teresa Cooper is a 30-something wife, mom and teacher from Havelock, North Carolina. She has a Masters of Science in Education for Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment from Walden University and a BA in Psychology with a minor in Creative from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Having struggled with anxiety and depression most of her life and later having birthed a child with autism, she is passionate about spreading awareness and acceptance of mental illness and autism and has been writing for Embracing the Spectrum since 2011. She also writes for The Mighty, The Huffington Post, and The Educator’s Room.

Do you ever feel that you aren’t teaching at your best? Not that you are deliberately not trying, but that you aren’t being deliberate about how you teach all of the time? Sometimes I go home and think about how the day has gone and realize, that I could have done better. So what, right? I’m a human being. I make mistakes. We all do. Sometimes we get sick. Sometimes we’re tired. And sometimes the kids come in like it’s a full moon on the day before a holiday. No matter what, though, we must remember that we’ve only got 180 days to make progress with the children we have, if you teach one group of students for a full year. If not, you have even less time! Why should you teach like someone is watching? Why shouldn’t you?

My point? Everything we do matters. From how we begin class, to how we transition, to how we end class, it all matters. How our students feel about us matters. How our parents feel about us matters. And, most importantly, what we do to reach our ALL students matters. For these reasons, teaching like someone is watching all of the time should be at the forefront of our minds. After all, I’m sure you’ve seen videos secretly taken by students during classes where teachers have all but given up. In today’s world, it is quite likely that someone really is watching when we don’t realize it. In a world of technology, we should teach like someone is watching because you have a classroom of 20-35 someones who watch you all the time. What do they see when they watch you teach?

From how we begin class, to how we transition, to how we end class, it all matters. Click To Tweet

Do they see your heart? Of course, students can tell when you genuinely care about them and when you don’t. Your actions show them where your heart lies. When you make mistakes, the moments after the slip-ups count perhaps more than the action itself. Own up to it when you inevitably make a mistake. Make sure they know that you are not super-human and that you will fix it when you do something wrong. Yes, your students do need to know that you care enough to make it right when you make mistakes. Also, they need to know that they can expect kindness and dignity when they enter your room. Teach like someone is watching even when you make mistakes because your recovery and that of your students depends on how you handle mistakes.

Do they expect consistency from you? When you teach several different groups of students, no matter what, routine means a lot. Even on the most non-routine days, students need to know what to expect from you. Give them a heads-up whenever possible when days will not go as planned.  Let them know what to expect during fire drills, tornado drills, and lock-down drills. Do a drill before the drills so they know what to do and where to go. Oftentimes, things like drills and assemblies throw our students off because we did not prepare them for it. Create stability in your classroom. Let the students know what you expect from them and what they can expect from you consistently in response to their actions.  You cannot create stability and routine unless you remain consistent. Teach like someone is watching as you decide how to follow routines in your classroom.

Students need to know that they can expect kindness and dignity when they enter your classroom Click To Tweet

Do they expect to feel successful in your classroom? All students want to feel successful, but some give up after a long period of time where success feels unreachable to them. Allow students to make goals they can reasonably reach. Help students see their potential by allowing them to express their intelligences in multiple ways. Not all students communicate well verbally. Not all students demonstrate competency of learning goals through multiple-choice, standardized tests. It’s up to us to give them chances to demonstrate knowledge through the use of video, music, art, presentations, writing, and more. By providing them with options of how to express their knowledge, we allow them to feel success. We also give them an opportunity to have fun while learning.

In short, we should teach like someone is watching because every single day, in every moment, there is always someone watching. Maybe students cannot write your observations, but that doesn’t mean you should not respect their voices in the classroom. Your school day, class period, etc., will go as smoothly as your students, via your choices and actions, allow.

If you decide you will only be on your A-game when someone “important” is watching, the students will know and they will make you pay. I’ve seen teachers who attempt bribery on observation days. I’ve also seen teachers who threaten punishment if students do not behave as expected in front of company. Which ones are successful? The ones who have created a classroom environment that is loving, stable, and respectful of students’ various learning abilities no matter who is in the room. Teach for your students and they will learn for you.

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