Athletic Teaching: How to Become A Stronger and Stronger Teacher

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Sometimes, teaching can feel like a grueling athletic event.  Like an ironman race, a teacher must slog through long days of teaching, supervision, and, worst of all, grading.  Like a sprinter, a teacher must be ready to race physically and mentally to meet her students’ every need.  Like a team sport athlete, a teacher must communicate and work actively with her entire teaching team and students.  Seeing that a teacher embodies many of the important characteristics of an athlete, it is invaluable to take some important lessons for teaching from the world of athletics.

Eat Right

It’s important to fuel your body and brain for a day of unexpected challenges.  Make sure you always eat a filling nutritious breakfast, healthy snacks, a solid lunch, and a dinner that is good for you.  Treats on occasion are great, but remember, garbage in garbage out!  Not eating right can impact your energy level and mental well-being.

Get Enough Sleep and Rest

Sleep?  What’s that? some teacher might joke.  Or they might tell themselves, I have just five more papers to grade and then I’ll get to bed.  Prioritize to get at least eight hours of sleep a night.  With significantly less the quality of your teaching performance suffers, and so do your personal interactions.  Skimping on your sleep ultimately doesn’t benefit you or your students.  What can you cut out to prioritize sleep?  Watching a pointless tv show?  Spending too much time on social media?  Maybe you can cut back on graded assignments and give stronger feedback on the ones you do grade to free up some time.

Also, just as athletes sometimes take rest days to relax their muscles, you should do the same with your teaching.  Take a day just for yourself, when you do absolutely nothing related to your work.  You will come back refreshed and energized to tackle the next teaching hurdle.  

Set Goals and Envision Success

When an archer notches an arrow into her bow and stares down at the target, she envisions success with every fiber of her being.  This is also a healthy practice for your teaching.  Think actively about what teaching success looks like: engaged students meeting learning objective in a healthy, vibrant classroom.  Set feasible mini-goals to get you there, and constantly evaluate and reflect on your performance and you get closer and closer to reaching your personal best.

Work With Coaches

Just as athletes get support from coaches, teachers should also seek encouragement and feedback from someone in the know.  Avoid getting trapped in a teaching silo and find coaches that hold you accountable, push you, and help you grow.  Find the style of coaching that is most motivational for you, and build a relationship with that person.

Keep Teaching and Practicing Teaching

Remember, continued teaching builds your teaching “muscle” and makes you a stronger teacher.  Practice makes better!

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