The three "R's" of an Effective Teacher

There have been so many posts circulating lately about teacher burnout, and really great teachers leaving the profession.  All across the western world politicians have made our jobs harder with policies and requirements that have less to do with developing student achievement and more to do with proving teachers to be incapable of making educated, professional choices with regards to their students.  
More and more teachers are leaving due to stress and micro-management.  At the end of the last school year I had panic attacks for two weeks due to stress from my old job.  I loved those kids, most of the people I worked with, and I had good relationships with the community.  Still, the uncontrollable tears, restricted breathing, and insomnia lasted until well after Christmas - here in New Zealand we finish school around the 15th ish of December.

When I grew up the "Three R's" were Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic - Or Reading, Writing, and Math as they are more commonly known now.  There are many things that are are shown to make an effective teacher, but I would like to share three "R's" that help to make an effective teacher now - regardless of what they teach.

You might have guess by now that this post isn't about the different teaching techniques.  Those can change as often as cohorts of students.  
The first R is "relaxation".  This comes in two forms.  Firstly, in order to be effective you need to get enough sleep!  For some people, enough is 6-7 hours, for others it's closer to 8.  

The benefits of sleep are two fold.  
Firstly - your body needs to regroup after a taxing day.  Sleeping helps your brain to unwind and get ready for a new day.  Your mood is lifted and you have a better chance at being alert and ready for all the challenges that teaching throws at you daily when you've had a good night's sleep.  
Secondly - your body needs sleep to stay healthy!  Lack of sleep can lead to stress, health related issues, weight gain.  By getting enough sleep you have a greater chance of fighting off the flu and other fun germy things your kids bring into the classroom.

TIPS - Here are three tips to make sure you get enough sleep!
  1. Set a bed time and stick with it!  
  2. Don't take your phone (ipad/computer/other devices) to bed!  Your body lets off melatonin when it is falling asleep.  Looking at your phone just as you are heading to sleep can break this release making it increasingly hard for you to fall asleep.  If your alarm is on your phone put your phone on "Do Not Disturb" mode to stop notifications coming through.
  3. Have a night time routine.  Just as you would for a child, have a routine that gets your body ready for sleep.  Have a shower, or read a book, or what ever you need to do to get your body in a routine.

Fitness fanatics, doctors, and the general public alike have long touted the benefits of daily exercise. It gets your body moving, which in turn releases endorphins making you feel happy!  Who doesn't like feeling happy?  I sure do.  
I don't like exercising though.  
That doesn't make me happy.  
I like sitting.  
And eating.
And playing on my phone.  Which makes it hard for me to sleep...  It's like that never ending song.

But in order to get this part of my life in order I have found that I like playing team sports - like netball (for my American friends, think basketball, with 7 players and no dribbling... among other things).

You have to find SOMETHING that gets your brain away from thinking about school and the pressures of the classroom.  Make it a challenge for your self and your family.  Set goals.  Get those endorphins flowing and eventually you will find that you DO like exercising.  Or so I'm told.

TIPS - Here are three ideas to get your recreation juices flowing.
  1. Try things out and stick to it when you find that thing you love!  
  2. Find someone to do it with you!  Your partner, friend, child, or workmate might be looking for someone to have fun with too!  It's really good to have someone to be accountable to as well.
  3. Make sure you have an outlet that isn't necessarily exercise too.  I'm a pianist and piano teacher in another life and sitting down at the piano after a particularly stressful/long day is like heaven for me.  Having a creative outlet is so needed in order to feel really grounded.

It goes without saying that teachers need to plan.  It's part of our job description, and it's not going any where any time soon.  There are thousands of images on pinterest that show you beautifully manicured classrooms with wonderful themes and student work hung at perfect right angles.  
But one look at pinterest and you can go one of two ways really.  
Firstly you could be incredibly inspired and have ALLLLLLL the great ideas come flooding through your classroom from then on out.
Or you could be more like the pinfail images that pop up on facebook with regularity.  Completely disastrous and disheartening.
Planning is essential, but routines for planning will help you to keep the first two R's in check.  If you plan BEFORE the weekend, and at school, then you have a chance at keeping up with your relaxation and recreation plans.  

TIPS - Here are three ways you can plan so that you stay an effective teacher.
  1. Have a planning routine.  Plan reading on Tuesday, Writing on Wednesday, and everything else on Thursday.  OR plan your guided groups during your lunch break and everything else after school.  Either way, the more you get sorted at school, the less you have to do when you get home.  This leaves you with more time to spend with your family - or catching up on those TV programmes you love!
  2. Have a great scope and sequence plan in mind for the year, term, or planning period.  The sooner you get these done the easier your planning will be.
  3. Don't stress.  If things don't go to plan, and you have to adjust - go with the flow.  Sometimes the best lessons are the ones that aren't written down on paper.  They are the ones that are student inspired, driven, and monitored.
In all, making sure you have balance in your life is the main thing.  Changing your focus from trying to be the person who does everything to the person who does their best will make you a better teacher.  You might actually find that you are able to achieve more because you are rested, relaxed, stress-free and able to tackle the challenges that come at you without taking things personally.

I for one came home these holidays the most rested, and healthy since starting teaching 9 years ago.  I'm still getting there - but at least I know what lessons I need to learn now!

How about you?


  1. Awesome tips! So glad things have got off to a better start for you this year - it must have been the right move :-)

  2. Awesome tips! So glad things have got off to a better start for you this year - it must have been the right move :-)

  3. These are so great to remember! I am horrible at being on my phone right before bed. I really need to put it down and pick up my book. Thanks for sharing! :)

  4. Glad this year is better for you! And these 3 R's are perfect! In fact, I'll be sharing this on facebook, if you don't mind.
    The Disneyfied Teacher


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