Thursday, April 3, 2014

One Teacher's Tips for the Most Successful Classroom

by James Davis 

 Recently, I sat down to interview a teacher at the elementary level, who by every indicator, proves to be an exceptional teacher.  Students love having the teacher, parents request the teacher, test scores are at their highest, and the room is always described as productive, engaging, progressive, harmonious, and student centered. 

I asked the teacher to take some time and think about her multiple indicators for success.  I asked her to reflect, but also speak with kids, consult with parents, and then identify her top five suggestions for creating a classroom as successful as hers.

Her suggestions are included below:

*Focus on a truly invitational classroom.  "If students want to be in the room, it will naturally create a better day for all of us.  I work in a purposeful manner to make sure that our room feels and looks good.  I have alternative lighting, green plants, a candy dish, music, student work, a reading center, and a small water fountain in our room.  If it feels and looks good inside the classroom, students act better and work harder."    

*Master all of your processes and procedures.  "We hear it all the time, but effective teachers have to master their processes and procedures early on.  I have a process for everything from sharpening pencils and collecting papers, to working in a small group and presenting for the class.  Nothing happens unless we have discussed the expectations associated with each process and procedure involved.  If something can go wrong, it likely will.  Processes and procedures help us avoid these unproductive situations."  

*Collaboration is key.  "Students have to have the chance to collaborate with one another on a daily basis.  True collaboration is vitally important for school and it is equally important for life in general too.  I share expectations, I model what I want to see, and I monitor from start to finish.  Afterwards, I make sure that true collaboration takes places each day, with every student, in every class."  
*Treat others as you wish to be treated.  "Although simple, I teach in this manner and I also refer to this statement regularly as I am working with students and handling classroom management issues and disciplinary issues within the school day.  I can't yell, and then punish a kid for yelling.  I can't come to teach in an unprepared fashion, and then be upset when my students come to class unprepared.  I treat others how I want to be treated, and in most cases, they reciprocate."  

*Never underestimate the power of an engaging, well-planned lesson.  "My best defense against everything, is a well-planned lesson.  Although timely, I have to be wiling to put in the time, effort, and energy to create a meaningful lesson plan. My lesson plan has to appeal to auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learners.  I also work to make sure that every lesson has a specific focus on critical thinking activities, effective communication, and chances for students to showcase their creativity."    
Although simple, several of the ideas above are often forgotten as teachers get busy with the many tasks they face.  Focusing on ideas that are grounded and kid-centered can yield successful results for everyone involved.  

This master teacher closed by stating, "With each action and each word that I am in control of, I try to always remember two things.  I remember that I am here for students and my challenge is to teach them well every day. In addition, the power of LOVE is a strong one.  My number one priority is for each student to feel loved, knowing that once they know I care, they work harder, care more, and go further both today, and in the future."       

Per the teacher's request, her name has been omitted.  A special thanks to this stellar teacher for sharing her ideas with others.

Dr. James Davis serves on the NCAEE Board. He received his doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Urban Education from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Dr. Davis has taught and worked as a school administrator for 15 years in North Carolina. He currently lives in North Carolina and begins work as an associate professor at High Point University this summer.   


  1. These strategies can be applied to success in life and in any professional arena. Be approachable and welcoming. Clearly establish and state your expectations so that you have a higher probability of getting what you want. Be open to the ideas and feedback of others, Be kind and Compassionate and when all else fails have a strong plan!

  2. As a first year teacher, I found this article to be a wonderful resource that I plan to utilize during the remaining part of this school year. I also plan to implement several of the strategies that were highlighted as I plan/set goals for the upcoming school year. Within each of the five suggestions are key focus points that are highly effective for a first year teacher or experienced teacher to help maintain a classroom community of learning in a loved environment.

  3. This is a meaningful article. It is kid-centered, realistic, and progressive. Thanks for sharing!

  4. This article is very helpful for a first year teacher as well as experienced teachers. The strategies explained in this article are very helpful. This article is an excellent resource that I plan to use for the rest of this school year as well in my years to follow. Establishing and maintaining a classroom community are very important. I believe that a classroom community can help to build an effective school year of collaboration and learning. Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful strategies!

  5. Thank you for this very relevant, detailed article. I love the fact that you had a discussion with a beginning teacher to share tips for beginning teachers (and all teachers). I agree with many of the teacher's shared strategies. In this world of educating 21st century learners, collaboration is essential. We must move past "old school" teaching methods to understand the importance of collaboration within the classroom. Furthermore, treating others as one would want to be treated is very important. In order to earn respect, we (teachers) must first give respect. Love and kindness go a long way in this profession and in life. Thank you for sharing these wonderful strategies and words of advice. :)