Teaching Skills Upgrade: Creative Ways to Up Your Teacher Game
Each new year comes with hopes, goals, and opportunities to improve. Want to learn something new and advance your practice? Here are some creative ideas to boost your professional development, up your teaching game, and supercharge your brilliant career.
PD made personal
Education workshops aren’t the only path to professional development. Try these informal — and fun — ways to grow in your career.
- Get out of school. Visit your local zoo to brainstorm an animal-focused science curriculum, or hit an art museum to find inspiration for cross-curricular lesson plans. Zoos and museums often have education directors who can help you use their resources, both virtually and in person. Some institutions also have programs just for teachers.
- Be dramatic. Take an improv or acting class. You’ll improve your classroom presence and think-on-your-feet skills, boosting your confidence and enhancing your connection to your students. To make it more fun, convince some of your teacher pals to join you.
- Learn for free online. Diving into a brand-new subject expands your mind and can stimulate creativity that carries over into your teaching. Online MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) are often free if you don’t need a certificate of completion, and offer a broad range of classes — coding, archaeology, 20th-century history, photography, and more — from top universities around the world. To get started, check out Coursera.
- Join the club. Join an organization such as the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, National Council of Teachers of English, or the National Organization for the Education of Young Children. You’ll get access to teaching journals, magazines, and on-demand webinars that you can use for independent study.
- Start a book group. Visit your school or district’s book room or your public library, and check out one professional development book each month. Read it, try it, use it, and then write up a quick reflection. Even better, ask a friend at school to be your book buddy.
Put your headphones on
Podcasts are a great way to pick up teaching tips while you commute, work out, or prep dinner. Here are some educator favorites.
- Science Underground (2 min) TED speaker and inventor-scientist Ainissa Ramirez delivers fun, understandable science lessons — how space suits work, why fireworks explode — in two-minute hits.
- The 10-Minute Teacher Show with Vicki Davis, the Cool Cat Teacher (10 min) Vicki Davis, a high school teacher and IT director, interviews a new expert every weekday about hot education topics such as cyberbullying and motivating special-needs students.
- Educators 2 Educators (30min) Host Carrie Conover chats with educators about innovative ways to transform your teaching. Recent episodes have covered digital citizenship, diverse learning, resilience, and ESL.
- Angela Watson: Truth for Teachers (30–40 min) Teaching coach Angela Watson serves up practical solutions for managing student behavior and motivational tips to energize your teaching.
Be a better mentor
Improve your management skills and clarify your teaching practice by signing on to mentor a new teacher. Here’s how to get as much out of the experience as you give.
- Reconnect with your inner beginner. Now that you’re a pro in the classroom, you may forget what it’s like to have new-job jitters. Put yourself in your mentee’s shoes by trying something new yourself — kickboxing, ballet, painting, or anything to stretch beyond your comfort zone.
- Branch out. Ask to be paired with a new teacher who has a different personality or teaching philosophy. Hearing a fresh perspective will help you both become better teachers.
- Make introductions. Schools are complex social systems, so don’t just share your expertise, share your network as well. Being a connector is a great way to polish your own workplace social skills.
- Put it on the schedule. You’ll likely have quick chats with your mentee in the hallway, teachers’ lounge, and via text all week long. But to be a really effective manager, set up an official weekly check-in meeting where you can sit together and talk through any challenges your mentee is facing that week.
- Don’t give up. Your mentee doesn’t have to take your advice, and often may not. Don’t take it personally. Building your resilience as a teacher is always a win!
For additional resources and ideas, articles on our topic collections page might give you additional ways to upgrade your teaching skills and knowledge about teaching topics.