10 Tips for Old(er) Teachers

As I was typing my last post, I realized that us old(er) teachers also need some tips.  Too often we get stuck in our old ways of teaching and some of the old ways just don’t work anymore.  Students nowadays learn differently than students 10 years ago.   The following is a list of 10 tips for us old(er) teachers:

1.) Smarter person doesn’t mean better teacher

Over the years I have heard sports analysts say that their is a misconception that if you are a great player then you will be a good coach.  Often times that misconception is true.  If you look at any major college or professional sports team it’s the average players that make the best coaches.  I feel the same applies to  the teaching profession.  I have known a lot of smart people that are just not good teachers.  Their content knowledge is superior, but they are unable to relate the content to the students they are teaching.  We, as teachers, have to realize that most students don’t love our subject as much as we do.  Also, if my students’ case, they have 6 more classes that they have to go to and the teacher is expecting the same thing.  Most teachers reply by saying “We did it when I was in school.” (we will get to that later).

2.) Don’t forget why you chose teaching as a profession

There are days where I have to  try to remind myself why I got into this crazy profession.  I know it wasn’t the money, snow days and holidays off is a perk but it’s not the reason I got into the teaching profession.  I chose teaching because I love helping kids and I enjoy seeing them learn things that they never thought they could.  I feel like most teachers, at some point in the career, lose sight of why they started teaching and focus too much wasted energy on other things that just distract us from doing what we need to do to help our students.  If we can help remind each other that we got into teaching for the kids then it will make us more effective teachers and help toward a better working environment.

3.) Listen to the young teachers, they have good ideas

I’m not sure why, but for some reason I have kept most of my papers from college.  One day I looked back at them and wondered “Where did I come up with that? That’s a good idea.”  I came out of college with grand ideas of how I would teach a certain topic, how I would use groups to help students, and new innovative ways to make teaching and learning fun.  Then I started teaching and I don’t know what happened.  We, as older teachers, need to realize that these younger teachers have some great ideas and have a lot to contribute if we allow them to.  Too often we think seniority rules and the young kids don’t know what they are talking about, but most of the time they have a valuable insight on how to teach our students.

4.) Don’t be an Energy Vampire

The term Energy Vampire comes from the Jon Gordon book “The Energy Bus” which I highly recommend.  It is basically somebody that sucks all of the energy out of a room.  I have students that are Energy Vampires, but there are also a lot of teachers that can be Energy Vampires as well.  It is something I feel we have to be really conscious of and make a concerted effort to try to be “energy givers” instead of “energy takers”.  It goes back to the saying that “misery loves company”.  It is very discouraging to hear an older teacher  be so negative toward a newer teacher.  We can’t inspire other teachers or students  to be better if we are constantly being negative about things.

5.) Limit the times you say “When I was in school …”

As a student, I always hated when teachers started a sentence by saying “When I was in school..”.  I always wanted to stop them and say “but we are not in your school we actually have indoor plumbing and get to ride a motorized vehicle to school.”  The fact is we are not in school and things have changed, even if you are a new teacher.  I realize that there are a lot of things about education twenty years ago that worked, but there are also some things about education that has gotten better.  I have been called an “old school” teacher (which I took as a complement), but it’s a waste of time for me to compare today’s world to the world 20 years ago when I was in school.  Most of the students aren’t interested in hearing about when we were in school and it often times comes off as us just mindless complaining.  The bottom line is the world has changed since we were in school and in order to successfully prepare our students we have to adjust to the times.

6.) Teach the students, don’t just cover the material

In today’s time of high stakes state testing teachers are under a lot of pressure to deliver good test scores.  As a result, we tend to get in the mode of “covering” the standards instead of teaching our students.  In order for teaching to take place the students have to be learning.  “Covering” and teaching are two totally different things.  Covering involves you talking about it and teaching involves the students learning it.  I would rather them learn  80% of the standards than “cover” 100% of the standards.

7.) Get to know your students outside of school

Students often think of teachers as this authoritative figure that is always trying to get them in trouble.  Sometimes I wonder if they even think we are normal.  I have found that when I see my students in public and recognize them as someone other than a student in a seat, they recognize me as someone other than their teacher.  I have many examples of current students and past students that I have seen in public and had conversations about non-school subjects.  Whether it be at the county fair, the local Walmart, or at a restaurant say something to your students when you see them in public.  I think it will go a long way toward building a good relationship which will translate to a better experience for both of you and possibly a discount at your favorite restaurant for you.

8.) Observe other teachers

Observations are always a part of a new teacher’s first year and, in my opinion, should be a requirement of every other teacher as well.  I know our time is limited and most teachers spend time outside of school hours preparing for their lessons, but we can learn a lot from each other if we are willing to put in the time.   Most teachers in our math department collaborate with each other and it is very helpful, but I have found that actually going into the classroom and observing what they are doing is more effective than them telling you what they do.  I would also advise going to observe teachers outside your grade level and subject level to come up with more effective ideas for your classroom.  Where ever you teach their are probably good teachers, young and old.  Find who they are and learn from them.

9.) Be open to change

Change is probably the one toughest thing for some old teachers, but it has been the one constant in education for the last 20 years.  I know it’s hard to let go of those lesson plans from the last 10 years that have worked so well, but with the pace that education is changing we must adapt to the new changes.  Also, technology has changed tremendously and will continue to change each year.  This is where our younger teachers could be very useful.  We are living in an ever changing world where technology is everywhere and if we are not using technology in our teaching we are doing our students a disservice.  Change is inevitable in education.

10.) Be a positive role model for the younger teachers

I had a older man tell me that you spend the first 1/3 of your life acquiring knowledge, the second 1/3 of you life applying that knowledge, and the last 1/3 of your life sharing that knowledge.  I am currently in the middle of the second 1/3 of my teaching career and I have started to think more of how I can help some of the younger teachers in our department.  When helping younger teachers, I think the first thing that older teachers need to do is reassure them that they are not alone.  Teachers are often thrown in a room and told to go teach tomorrow’s future and the younger teachers are overwhelmed and end up not having a positive experience.  We need to make it a point to provide encouragement to our younger teachers, share our knowledge in a constructiuve way, and be a positive role model for them to follow.


If you any extra tips for older teachers please comment.


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