What Successful Teachers do Better – and Why

It doesn’t matter where you teach, at a small nursery school, a city centre primary or a massive suburban secondary school, successful teachers stand out, and here we look at some of the reasons why.

One thing we’ve learnt about successful supply teachers, regardless of whether they work in nursery, primary or secondary is that they are all unique, partly because of the infinite variety of opportunities they deal with. But paradoxically, they also have so much in common.

@Mrsh61210 Successful Teachers Graphic

This was brought home to me when I re-found this great chart which has been around for a while and originated with Janet Hamilton who tweets as @Mrsh61210.  OK, it’s all basic stuff but nothing wrong with that.  If we could achieve most of these, most of the time, our lessons would be great!

For example, every lesson has to have clear objectives and a sense of purpose.  How this is conveyed to a class is the real skill – some teachers do this in a way that’s almost subliminal, others do it in flaming red letters!!!  The important thing is that the students get it, and of course, with a class you’ve only just met, how do you know which one works?  You could always ask.  “How does Mr Smith like to begin his lessons?” or “How do like a lesson to begin – with a clear road map, or would you prefer a little bit of a mystery tour?”  This way, you’ve turned the whole issue of objectives and purpose into a lesson opener.

A sense of humour???  Could one survive without it, especially with a new class who most certainly will try it on with you.  I’ve found some interesting regional differences here. Kids in Liverpool set out to shock, which with me is rather difficult – but I gave them brownie points for trying. In posh rural Cheshire, they played at excessive politeness.   In both cases it was almost rehearsed – they knew I was arriving as a temporary teacher so they decided on the “approach of the day”.  Neither worked – however both gave a platform for a quick bit of humorous retaliation.

One of the key themes of the chart is positivity:

  • Expect students to succeed
  • Know how to take risks
  • Enjoy one’s work
  • Welcome change
  • Willing to explore
  • Comfortable with the unknown
  • Bringing fun

It’s not always easy, but if you bring these things with you into any appointment, you will succeed and you will be welcomed back. Oh, and yes, the kids will have learnt!

Peter Cobrin entered teaching by accident in 1981 to provide cover for a few days and stayed at the same school for 15 years first as a teacher of history and politics, then head of department and de facto head of sixth form. Later in his career he was a lead adviser in the Building Schools for the Future programme and now he is a key member of the First Class Education family, focusing on innovation and special projects.