English Department chair
West Deptford High School
Westville, New Jersey
I’ve been teaching for 19 years now, so I know how to ensure that my high school students perform to the best of their abilities. I recommend four ways to help create an optimal learning environment in the classroom.
Have a positive attitude
First, project a positive attitude toward students and make it clear that you have a love and passion for the subject matter. When teachers explain why the material is worth learning and how students can apply it in the real world, students are much more motivated to learn.
When planning a unit, review what you have previously done, keeping only the most successful components, and then consult the Internet or your peers who teach the same subject to get new ideas. Whenever a teacher can offer some form of choice to students, the kids appreciate it.
Be sure to vary the activities you plan and the forms of assessment. Having three different activities within a class period is a good practice. In addition to incorporating technology, also make sure that you align the lessons with state standards and other standardized tests, such as Advanced Placement and the SATs. At the end of the period, you can also remind students of late or upcoming assignments.
Communicate with parents
Finally, it is imperative that you keep close contact with parents. Presenting specific information at Back to School night—rather than a general overview—is a good start. You should keep student grades updated on online services such as Power Grade so that parents can access them at home. And if students misbehave and test you early in the year, immediately call the parents.