One Way to Stay Fresh as a Teacher

I know that quite a few teachers read this blog, so let me offer a suggestion for one way to stay fresh as a teacher. Here is my suggestion: Make improvements to a lesson immediately after you teach it.

This suggestion, obviously, is for people who teach the same classes over-and-over again. It doesn’t apply to you preaching warriors(!) who prepare sermons week-in-and-week-out, or for you teachers who prepare to teach something brand new every week. Some of us, though, teach the same classes repeatedly. How does a teacher who is scheduled to teach the same content year after year keep from “going to seed,” as one of my colleagues refers to teachers who stop working hard to keep their classes up-to-date?

One helpful suggestion is to walk out of a class you have just taught and make changes to the class content or method right away—while your thoughts about how to make the class better are still fresh. Introduce whatever adjustments might improve the class session, reprint your teaching notes (or get them ready-to-go on your tablet), and then put them away. Then, the next time you are about to teach the same class lesson, you will pull out your brand new(!) teaching notes and find yourself ready to teach a much better class than the last time you taught it.

In my case, I usually have to wait a year or two before I actually pull out my new teaching notes for a given class period. But, oh how much I love myself on those days!—at least I love the person who had to foresight to make changes to his teaching notes a year or two before (if I am permitted to put it that way).

Now, I do not change my notes for every class period I teach, especially when I am connecting well with students in a particular class session. Nevertheless, I regularly make changes along the way. If changes are small, I simply pencil them in on the side of my teaching notes. I only do a full re-prep when I can envision a better way to teach the class overall, or when I have so filled up the margins with pencil marks that I feel compelled to clean it up (and thus also re-envision) what I might want to do with a particular class period.

This practice of making changes after class—when ideas are still fresh—has been one of the most fruitful disciplines I have kept up during my more than twenty years of college teaching. Maybe this idea will be helpful to some of you reading this post today—in whatever context you find yourself teaching.

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