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8 Mistakes I've Made as a Teacher

Teaching is tough, but reflecting is even tougher! 🥺 

When I think back to my first years of teaching, I cringe at all the awful mistakes I made. Really, I'm cringing right now. It's like watching an awful film and I'm the star. It wasn't that I disagreed with important practices... I just didn't know (yet).

Here, I share with you...

8 mistakes that I made as a teacher

#1 Giving one independent task

One size, never fits all! Differentiation and personalization of learning tasks makes learning not only possible for all students, but engaging and meaningful as well. Adding more or reducing the amount of work isn't really differentiation - read more here to learn about differentiation in the classroom that won't take hours to plan or prep.

Differentiating for English Language Learners in the classroom, teacher blog post. Image shows labels for comfort, stretch and challenge to offer multiple task difficulties.

#2 Too much TTT (teacher talk time)

I've noticed that my students do a lot more thinking, problem solving, collaborating and learning when they are the ones doing the talking. Why do we talk so much? Hardly anyone learns that way, not even adults! We need to stop talking in order to watch, observe, listen and provoke thinking.

#3 Using worksheets

I cannot understand why TpT and Twinkl are full of worksheets. There are simple learning engagements that can take the place of worksheets in the classroom. How can we expect learners to think outside of the box if we are literally creating boxes all around them? Now... don't get me wrong. I use worksheets, but everything has it's place and in the daily routine of my classroom, that's not it. I now choose learning engagements that are cooperative, problem solving and project based, even in first grade.

Creative ways to preteach vocabulary for language learners blog post. Elementary school teacher holding cut out pictures and words from a picture book about recycling to use in a read aloud lesson to engage EAL students.

#4 Not pre-teaching vocabulary

It took becoming multilingual to understand the frustrations kids must deal with everyday in English speaking classrooms when English is not their home language. Every class, every year and every cohort is a little different in terms of language acquisition and fluency but most of my students benefit from a vocabulary intro early in a lesson. There are so many small moves, nearly effortless or only a small shift away from what we're already doing that can support our language learners. Here's a few ideas to try when pre-teaching vocabulary.

#5 Skipping 'think time'

Ask a thinking question and ... wait! Keep waiting. Ignore the hands that go up, shoot a glare at the kids who blurt out. It took me a while to develop the practice of making sure everyone was thinking, even if they weren't the one sharing. Take it one step further and have partners talk before opening a whole class discussion. It holds students accountable for thinking and trying answers, listening to others and learning to say what is on their minds. Incredibly powerful.

#6 Marking or grading with students during the lesson

Efficient and effective! Using time wisely and giving verbal feedback with modeling and guidance rather than piles of work for me after school, expecting students to respond to marks and notes on papers and books.

Don't tell Lucy, but I ditched my clipboard folder of Writer's Workshop notes and instead, used large sticky notes with my feedback for the students. They kept them right inside their writing folder - students saw their next steps every time they got started on their writing and both me and other teachers in the class always knew where the notes were.

Confessions of an overachiever teacher blog post, teacher sitting home drinking tea on a "sick" day, staring out the window.

#7 Ignoring signs of burnout

As if burnout isn't bad enough, whats even worse, not quickly identifying causes that I had control over. Sadly, burnout is such a problem in our profession with working hours that seem to never truly end and no clear, definitive line about where our responsibilities end.

I know, if we here one more cliche phrase about self care... But I continue to seriously struggle with this one. My message to myself is that if I'm too tired to go to the gym or yoga after school, I've given too much.

#8 Not asking for support

It's no joke that the best PD is across the hall. It was too easy to do things my way, something I already knew and didn't need to learn or spend more time on. But after a year of being an EAL teacher and sitting in on other teachers' lessons, I had a whole new, amazing toolbox of teaching and learning skills - nothing I learned in uni, could find in books or even on TikTok.

I hope your have been inspired by something from my 8 mistakes I made as a teacher. However, we teachers all know that we learn from doing - not from being told. So try out some new practices and see how it changes your classroom management and the learning in your room. ❣️ 

Happy teaching, learning and growing!

💛 Sativa


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