Setting Your Own Expectations
You will feel pressure to live up to everyone's expectations. However, they are not as important as setting and meeting expectations of your own. Many of your expectations should be the same as those of the community, parents, students, and the administration. However, you do not have to strive to meet those expectations you think are inappropriate for your situation.
Each evening before you go to sleep or each morning when you wake up, write down a goal or two for the day. Your goals should be challenging, but they should also be very specific and realistic. For example, you might set a goal of getting a student who never speaks up during a class discussion to become involved. Or you might make a goal that you will begin class on time each period.
The point of this exercise is that if you have goals, you have something to strive for. Your goals should be compatible with your expectations for yourself and your students. As you complete each goal, cross it off the list and celebrate!
Never settle for a mediocre performance. Strive to be the teacher who someone will thank someday for truly and positively affecting her life. Strive to be the teacher who helps light a spark for some students who have never enjoyed school in the past. In other words, set your expectations high. When you meet them, raise the bar.
Still, make sure that you are not trying to accomplish the impossible. Remember that your students have minds of their own. You can teach and do your job, but you cannot change a student's personality or conduct. Therefore, your goals should not center upon someone else's behavior. For example, you should not have a goal that “Johnnie will stop pushing Laura today.” Make them very personal, and keep the list with you all day long to remind you of your focus.
Opportunities for Growth
You should also stay aware of opportunities for growth. You will most likely be required to perform some sort of professional development every year in order to get recertified. Choose activities and in-service programs that will truly help you develop as a teacher. Attend conferences and listen to others teaching your subjects to find fresh ideas and insights. When you spend time with motivated people, you will find yourself becoming more motivated too.
A few words need to be said about in-service programs and conferences. Sometimes, you will find them to be extremely interesting and worthwhile. Other times, you will find them to be boring and not really worth your time. However, you are a professional, so make sure that you act like one at all times.
No matter what, you should respect the person who is leading the in-service program or speaking at the conference. Unfortunately, teachers often make the worst students. You know how you feel when students do not listen and instead talk among themselves in your classroom. Do not be that type of “student.”
Many teachers have found that the steps to become nationally certified have proved to be a real growth opportunity to their career. Take some time to look into it. Not only do many states provide monetary incentives for successfully completing this great program, but you will also reap other more intangible benefits. You will learn more about yourself as a teacher as you take a critical look at your practices.
States across the nation are providing subsidies and incentives for national board certification. Some states provide the same incentive to all teachers. Other states allow individual districts to award their teachers with significant monetary bonuses. However, budget cuts and recent economic woes have caused some states to cut monetary compensation for national board-certified teachers.
You are teaching students with the hope that they will become lifelong learners. However, you must look at yourself to see if you are a good role model for your students. Are you a lifelong learner? Are you someone who enjoys reading about and learning new things? Or are you someone who goes home and turns on the television to while away the hours? Your love of learning will show through to your children, your fellow workers, and your students.
You also may find that when you begin taking on a leadership role in your school, you will grow more as a teacher and a person. Followers allow things to happen to them. They often complain but rarely do anything productive to institute change. Good leaders, on the other hand, should be a source of strength and a proponent for necessary change. They spend time looking for solutions.
You do not have to be an administrator to be a leader. You can choose to lead through your classroom, through positions like team leading, serving as a department head, or chairing a committee. You can simply choose to lead through your attitude. If you are a tactful, positive, motivated hard worker, you can make a difference in your students' lives and in your school.