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The ABCs of Avoiding Big Error
posted by: Larisa | July 18, 2012, 01:54 PM   

Teaching is about trial and error.  As a teacher, you know that students learn differently and that a lesson plan that works for one student might not work for another.  Through the years, you refine your technique by testing out various teaching strategies to discover what is and is not effective.  Unfortunately, with trial and error comes the danger of BIG error, and, if that’s the case, we know the terror of big error – you might get fired, sued, or both.

So what do you do to avoid being in such an uncomfortable situation where your job and reputation is on the line?

You go to your classroom everyday and you just want to teach.  The last thing on your mind is the litigious society that we live in or the danger that you could potentially be sued.  To make teaching your class of adorable 2nd graders or hilarious 10th grade English students less terrifying, consider these ABCs to avoid those big errors:

A – Admit your mistakes, and learn from them.
B – Be firm and flexible.
C – Communicate with parents, administrators, teachers, students, and stakeholders.
D – Document, document, document.  Write your lesson plans down, keep a diary of information at home about how work is, detail things you said and did, record why you gave a particular student a particular grade, put a date and time on everything…
E – Explain and re-explain.  Sometimes, students need to hear the lesson more than once.
F – Facebook friending your students is NEVER a good idea.
G – Give assignments and projects with purpose.
H – Handbook and teaching contract: read them, rely on them, live by them.
IIn loco parentis: this little Latin phrase means that your school has authority and responsibility to watch over and take care of students “in place of the parent.”  For your purposes, this means be careful.
K – Keep your administrator in the loop.  If you’re having problems or frustrations with your job, talk to your administrator, and make sure you refer to the terms of your contract and handbook.
L – Listen carefully.
MModel the behavior you want to see in your classroom.
N – Not knowing the law is no excuse.  If it seems like a bad idea, don’t do it.
O – Offensive speech and behavior in your classroom will get you in trouble.
P – Proactive conduct and planning will prevent disasters.
Q – Quit overlooking the hazards in your classroom.  That dangling ceiling tile will not fix itself, and the last thing you need is to have it fall on Bobby while you’re teaching American History.
R – Remember that you only have ONE reputation, and it’s your duty to guard it.  You never know who is recording your conduct.
S – Sleep well at night so that you can stay alert during the day.
T – Think before you speak or do.
U – Use the “sandwich” approach if you need to give a student some negative feedback.  For example, “I like the way you wrote your cursive S, Sally.  Do you think that next time we could see the S curl a little more, though?  I love your effort!”  In other words, positive + negative + positive = sandwich.
V – Vent appropriately.  Do not blow up in front of your students.
W – Watch your language, body gestures, facial expressions, etc.
X – Xerox lesson plans and other materials for substitute teachers.
Y – YouTube is a valuable resource for teachers, but preview the videos before you integrate them into your lesson plan.  Something inappropriate might be lurking in the video, so it’s best to check it out in its entirety first.
Z – Zero tolerance for being unprofessional is the standard to which you must hold yourself.  You have a college degree, and you’re a professional.

While there is a lot of trial and error in the classroom, many of the big errors can be avoided or mitigated if you are employing these ABCs.  Importantly, however, adopting good strategies for dealing with stress, anxiety, misbehavior, laziness, etc., will empower you and create a safe learning environment so that you can do what you love – TEACH.

Teachers, what do you do to avoid big errors in your classroom?

Comment below.

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