Let’s Talk: Professional Dress for Teachers

When I was in grade nine, I adored Mrs. Cohen. Something about the way she moved, with purpose, and how she dressed, with flair, made me want to be her. Although she was not a beauty, her pressed blouses, her beautiful jewelry, and her matching lipstick all oozed elegance. And in this respect Mrs. Cohen stood out. Of all the teachers I had as a student, she was the only one who dressed really beautifully. She was the only one to enter the classroom and announce, through the clothes she wore, “Pay attention! I am here! This is important!”

The pride Mrs. Cohen took in her appearance communicated to me that she cared about her job. Whether or not she took pride in being a teacher is uncertain, but it certainly made that impression on me. Even as a student, I intuitively knew that the way one dresses expresses not only how one feels about oneself, but also how one feels about one’s work.

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What Good (and Bad) Principals Teach Us About Teaching

Students complain about bad teachers.

Johnny comes home from school and complains his teacher plays favourites because his teacher praises only a few students and bashes the rest. Johnny hates when his teacher talks about him behind his back to other teachers and even students.

Maria complains to her parents over dinner that her teacher never has time for her and never answers questions.

Jason hates that his teacher is lazy—he sits and sips Starbucks and lectures behind his desk— while expecting only the best work from his students. “It’s hyporcritical!” Jason cries to his parents.  Another teacher takes days to reply to Jason’s emails and takes weeks to mark his work, yet expects Jason’s homework to be handed in on time. “It’s just not right!” moans Jason.

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5 Easy Vocabulary Games to Fill Extra Class Time (No prep)

It happens to every teacher.

Horror of horrors, you have finished your lesson and the practice and the students are getting antsy. The promise of cafeteria Jamaican patties and French fries make your students jittery.

With 10 minutes left in class, what is to be done?

On the rare occasion that your run out of things for students to do in class, you want to have something ready to throw at your students– something fun, educational, and no-prep.

All of these games are useful in almost any subject at the start of class to review yesterday’s lesson, at the end of class to check for understanding, or for test review.

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The Happy Teacher Habits by Michael Linsin (Summary & Review)

Happy teacher habits
You too can be a happy teacher.

Do you feel tired and exhausted during the school year and not sure what to do about it?

Do you wish your lessons were better, but you just don’t have the time for late-nights planning at home?

Do you wish you had time each work night to enjoy family dinner and the hobbies that, prior to teaching, were once part of your life?

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Would You Sign Up for Your Own Class?

Would you put an “X” for “yes” beside your own English class if you were a student with a course enrollment sheet in hand?

If you were a student today, would you choose to sign up to  your own class?

The answer to that question may well be the million-dollar question.

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5 Simple Ways to Raise Academic Expectations in Your Classroom

In a post earlier this month, I went over the research showing that a teacher’s high academic standards and expectations result in student success.

I always knew high standards work intuitively. My best teachers—the strict-as-nothing English, music, and karate teachers—all pushed me to new heights. They expected and demanded new heights, and I jumped up to deliver.

Now that I’m a teacher, I teach the same way.

Through observation and the reading of research, I’ve found the five secrets of high expectations teachers that any teacher can follow.

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Are You Tough Enough to Teach?

Everybody and his pet rabbit wants to become a teacher. Around this time of year, at least three students tell me they want to become teachers. Later in the year, I often discover, more future teachers pop out of the woodwork.

With eyes that seem to look towards a utopia, these students tell me they want to teach. They tell me they want to share their love of Shakespeare. Biochemistry. The finer points of geography. And they want to inspire. They want to, through their gentle lovingness, spark the latent fire of intelligence and humanity in teenagers obsessed with spinners and dabs.

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Lessons I’ve Learned: 10 Tips for Better Teaching

I wrote this post when I was studying to become a teacher and working part-time at a private school.

Today marks my one year anniversary of teaching at Trinwood Private School, and nearly seven years of tutoring in the GTA.  After seven years of teaching, I’ve learned a bit about how to get my students to succeed. I’ve followed the wisdom of Confucius: “When you see a good person, think of becoming like him. When you see someone not so good, reflect on your own weak points” – I’ve watched teachers of varying levels of effectiveness and through this I’ve learned about myself. What kind of teacher will I be? The answer is always this: I’ll be a better teacher than I was last year.

I still have much to learn, but here’s what I know to remember  in 2013:



Whiteboards and markers are artifacts of bygone era. Lessons are most effective when they go beyond the board to include Youtube clips, articles, recordings of speeches, and pictures. Demonstrations using your body, the students in the classroom, and everyday objects succeed. Example:  To explain the idea of “hierarchy,” I show a short clip about the caste system in India.


Machiavelli insists that “It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.” It doesn’t work that way in education. You don’t have to be loved, but it does help if you’re students enjoy coming to class because you’re occasionally funny. Now, I’m no clown or comedian—I’m a teacher—but why would I chuckle to myself in front of the class like some lunatic when I could just make a joke?


This is a loaded question, in the same category as the question “Does my butt look big in this?” No student can give you an honest answer to the understanding question. There are egos at stake; there are inaccurate perceptions of understanding; and sometimes there is plain boredom with the material. Never ask this question. Give students questions to answer instead.


Southern decay is a molding sandwich. The controlling idea of a paragraph is the heart of a paragraph. The connectors we use are the glue that keeps the paragraph together. The introductory paragraph is the sales pitch—you get the idea. After I started using similes and metaphors with my students, I saw an improvement in understanding.

5.       BUY A “BLACK BOOK”

Remember: Tony has internal eye bleeding since karate class yesterday; Amy has an IB entrance exam next week; Maria has a severe allergy to peanuts; Jason’s parents don’t want him watching any violence on TV ; Carl is short-sighted; and you need extra handouts for next week. Unless you’re superhuman, you’ll need a black book to write all that down. And, when you remember things about your students, it pays huge dividends.


You are a window for your students to the outside world. Students rarely read the newspaper, but they’re interested in current affairs. They want to talk about the hard things. As a rule, I bring in one current event to discuss in my writing classes per two weeks.


Students are more likely to like class if they know they’ll learn something useful. They often don’t believe your subject (e.g. English) is useful. In this case, you have to teach not just English (which you know is useful) but other facts immediately applicable in their lives.  For example, while teaching writing techniques you can use examples that teach them what you know about addictions. Or, you can teach English via new technology like LiveScribe. You can use sentence examples that are also famous quotes.


Students who feel connected to their teachers and other students in the class are more likely to enjoy learning. They’re no longer free-floating atoms that happen to bounce into your classroom for two hours a week, but a tightly-knit community. Celebrate birthdays, share major events, tell students a bit about yourself (just don’t overdo it), praise students when they deserve it, and make class projects to display on the wall.


When do we use “whom” and “who”? Why do we use “that” here and not there? What is the difference between a semi-colon and a dash? These are some of the questions students have asked that stumped me. I’ve been tempted to say “it’s not important” or “you’ll learn it next year.” But I’ve found the best answer to be: “To be honest, I’m not sure. Let me check and I’ll explain it next class.” Then I do it.


A teacher without goals is a bike without wheels. I’ve learned the hard way: If I don’t know where I’m going, I won’t get there with my students. Now I make monthly goals for my classes (e.g. learn parallelism and sentence reduction), and I make weekly lesson plans too. I write this plan for the class on the board each lesson. When they’re written down, I remember the goals I need to accomplish to be successful that day. It works.

There’s much more, but I’ll leave it at that. I’m curious to hear your ideas.

Do you have any tips from your own teaching practice? OR

Do you remember any teachers that did a great job? What made them successful?