I’ve been a fan of Michael Linsin for a few years now. I began with reading his information on classroom management which is fantastic, but more recently I’ve been intrigued with his writing on how to function well both in and out of the classroom, which is the topic of this inspiring book.
It is a quick read at only 127 pages, and it is an easy read, full of interesting stories that he weaves into each chapter. It has excellent advice for us teachers. Here is a short synopsis of each of the eleven habits of happy teachers according to Mr. Linsin.
- Narrow down your activities and commitments. Focus on the 20% of things that really matter to you and let the rest go. The other 80% doesn’t matter that much, and it’s taking up your precious time.
- Learn to say “no.” If we’re going to try to streamline our lives so that we can be more productive and function better in the classroom, we’ve got to learn to say “no.” If we can learn to do this, we will have more time and be able to focus on the most important things that we choose to spend time on.
- Clean up and declutter your classroom. Clutter is distracting and energy-draining. Get rid of what you can, store and tidy up the rest. You’ll love it and so will your students.
- Inspire your students to do well in their work by knowing your content well and by teaching it well. Present challenges, cheer them on, expect them to work hard, but don’t offer any external rewards. Teach them to value working diligently and to recognize and enjoy good work when they achieve it.
- Improvise! Know your content so well that you are an expert in your field. Then when you are teaching, you can improvise. You will be able to relax, be yourself, add relative information as needed, tell stories, and inspire your students with your knowledge in your content area.
- Tell stories. You should have many of these from your personal life, teaching experiences, and reading. Think of stories that relate to what you are teaching and use these stories to pull your students into whatever you are teaching on any given day. Linsin breaks this down into three nuggets: 1) Find the lesson objective. 2) Figure out how you can make this objective relative or interesting to your students. 3) Then tell a story that will help your students relate to or understand the objective better. This will draw them into your lesson and help them make a connection between real life (your story) and the objective in the lesson.
- Envision. Take a few minutes each morning to do a mental run-through of your day and to quickly go through your lessons. This is especially helpful if you are able to picture yourself responding to student misbehavior in a pre-planned way according to your, or your school’s discipline policy.
- Shift the responsibility of your students’ successes onto their shoulders. It’s their responsibility, not yours. Allow them to “wrestle” with a difficult math problem or with rewriting an essay. Inspire them with great lessons, give them good examples, but then give them the time to work through the hard stuff and let them achieve on their own.
- “Sway” your students to enjoy having you as a teacher. Be consistently pleasant. If you are nice to your students, they will want to be nice back to you. This doesn’t mean that you don’t enforce your rules; it just means that you kindly and politely tell them the consequences of their misbehavior and enforce them. The second part of this is trust. Always do what you say you will do so that your students will trust you.
Interestingly enough, part of this is being a dynamic teacher in front of the class but being a little aloof outside of class. He stresses that teachers should not ever try to be “cool” or buddies with their students. It’s the opposite: teachers should be reverenced and respected and being kind and trusted (and a little aloof) is a great way to achieve this status.
- Listen. In staff meetings and in the staff lounge, listen more than you talk. This way people won’t get irritated with you, and when you do speak, they will listen more intently. Listen to your students. If you listen more, you will understand them better, and that will make you a more effective teacher.
- Work hard. Being a great teacher doesn’t just happen. You have to work hard to make it happen. This means knowing your content, memorizing your classroom management policies and enforcing them, and trying to always be working at something so that your goal to become a better teacher will be realized. You’ve got to work hard to make it happen.
This book can be ordered online on Amazon. At Lipsin’s website, you can find many other interesting books and articles on teaching and classroom management. I cannot recommend one hundred percent of everything he writes, but much of it is positive and I have found it to be very helpful.