Over the last 25 years, I’ve learned a lot about teaching. During that time, having worked with teachers who were more experienced and less experienced than me, along with multiple interns, I’ve picked up a few things that have helped my success.
Right or wrong, image is everything. A major part of being a teacher is being outgoing. If you’re not normally an outgoing person, fake it. Make eye contact with people, say hello every time you meet up with a staff or student in the hall. Talk about your outside life with other staff members at lunch. Ask opinions about things you are thinking of doing. People love to give their opinion about almost anything (even if they don’t know what they are talking about). This puts you in a favorable light in their mind.
Image matters. Perceptions are important. Always keep in mind, someone’s perception is their reality. Even if you absolutely love your job every minute and are totally committed to it, if it doesn’t look like you do and are, it doesn’t matter. Principals only have time for a few formal observations during the school year. Because it’s such a short amount of time, every minute counts. When the time comes to write your evaluation, you want him or her to have a positive perception of the job you do.
Come in Early, Stay Late
Look eager. If at all possible, come in early at least a couple of times a week and stay late a few times a week. (We’re only required to be there during the contract hours, but it looks better if you are in the building longer). When you are there early in the morning or late in the afternoon, make yourself noticed. Run copies in the office, check the mailbox, pop in to ask people questions which you might normally ask during the day. The more people see you out and about, the more they assume you are there early and late every day.
Remember, while it may look like the veteran teachers don’t do much, they have already put in their time building a reputation of hard work. They’ve had years of being on committees, running after-school events, staying after school with students, etc. Don’t assume that they are not as committed as you are; instead, be grateful for the hours and hours of work they put in as young teachers.
Volunteer for extra duties whenever possible. Offer to be on a committee, change a bulletin board, start a club, create a send-home article, etc. The more you offer to do, the more impressive you look. Consider your unique talents and find ways to make them visible.
Make Yourself Visible
Do hall duty every day, every time the students are in the hall. If the principal walks by and sees you in the hall interacting with the students, it makes you look like you love your job. It also lets students and parents see that you are invested in your class. In addition, it helps your classroom management. Problems in the classroom often begin in the hall, so if you are there to stop them, they don’t present themselves in your class.
Invite the principal in to see you do something with the kids. A craft, a lab, a role play, all give the illusion that you have very active classes. Anytime you are doing something along those lines, send an FYI note to the bosses. This puts you in their mind as someone who is creative, innovative and inventive. These are positive traits in a teacher, so you want to play them up.
Eat lunch with your peers daily. Many decisions get made in informal meeting times like that. Never miss a chance to be part of the decision making process. Often, the principal will stop in to staff lunch hours and chat. This is a great chance for face time with the boss.
Try to contact parents regularly. Call and give an update on a child you had trouble with. Call and ask the parent for help with a child who is not behaving. Call and let a parent know their child is missing work. Call and praise a child. That sort of thing gets noticed and parents drop hints to the office staff about the “great communication” from their child’s teacher.
Attendance is a priority. Subs are never able to do the job the regular teacher can do. A reputation for good attendance is always a good thing. Parents hear about the sub every time the student has one. It’s a good idea to limit missed days to unavoidable issues.
Ask for feedback about your teaching. Write up notes for improvement and ask your principal or another teacher to look at them. This not only improves your teaching, it lets others know that improving your teaching is important to you. Ask the principal to observe you and offer feedback. Even if he or she doesn’t have time to do it, it raises awareness that you want to be the best teacher possible, which makes you look good.