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The 15 habits of highly effective teachers

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IB World magazine shares the top qualities today’s IB teachers need

The late Stephen Covey released one of the most successful books in 1989 – The 7 habits of Highly Effective People. It sold more than 25 million copies around the world and is still a popular read because of its universal and timeless approach to personal development.

Although this is classified as a business and self-help book, Covey’s series of ‘habits’ to being effective in attaining personal goals is a theory that can be applied to teaching, or any profession for that matter.

But there are more than seven habits, as IB World has discovered. Below, IB educators share what habits help them become better at their jobs and improve student learning…

  1. Curiosity – looking for new ideas and new research, reading about other ways to do things or present content, and thinking about how to adjust routines are all important because teachers can’t expect to get the same results every year. Each class has different experiences and prior knowledge. As a teacher works to include that specific class’ prior knowledge, adjustments have to be made. A teacher’s curiosity will help guide this process swiftly, efficiently, and in a manner that improves the learning experience.

Teacher and students - Mother tongue pic optimizedAn inquiry classroom needs to be an environment that fosters curiosity. This can only be done through experimenting with each group of students and each inquiry. A teacher has to be willing to try something new, including in the middle of a lesson.

–Sarah Lee, Grade One Teacher at Bilkent Laboratory and International School, Ankara, Turkey

2. Instilling a love for lifelong learning is a powerful attribute that should be demonstrated during lessons. For example, my students were recently conducting research for their PYP exhibition and were learning to reference their sources. At the time, I was completing my Masters and showed them how I also had to reference my reading. This led to a conversation about learning as an adult and the enjoyment and opportunities that it can provide.

Also, professional learning and development, keeping up-to-date with educational developments and technologies, and partaking in a culture of sharing effective practice with your colleagues, is a way to model the habits of a lifelong learner.

–Ross O’Donnell, PYP Coordinator at GEMS World Academy, Dubai

  1. I love my profession and enjoy my time with students. With this in mind, I feel the need to transfer my enthusiasm to them as much as possible. When I take my students out on geography field trips, I’m excited about the process and students share the same feeling.

–Sreemati Sen, Deputy Head of National Curriculum, Dhirubhai Ambani International School, India

  1. Teachers spend so much time caring for others, that they often neglect their personal well-being. Prioritizing your own self-care will allow you to look after students with new energy, enthusiasm and mental acuity. Proper sleep, healthy nutritional habits, and mental and physical engagement outside of school are habits that aren’t really visible to students, so sharing anecdotes and stories with them (when appropriate) is an effective way to model. Even small actions, like showing students the healthy snacks you bring to school, can help them see that you ‘talk the talk’ and ‘walk the walk’.

–Jeff Layman, MYP Teacher and Head of the Design Department at American International School, Kuwait

  1. Active involvement in subject outside of school will bring a worldly connection and relevance to what you teach in class. My independent interest and activity in reading and writing English, and following developments in the literary world, enhance my teaching. This also helps sustain a better work/life balance as I bring my own interests and activities into the classroom.

–Mark Muller, English Teacher at British International School, Istanbul

  1. Highly effective teachers cultivate meaningful professional relationships with students that transcend classroom walls. These relationships are built on a genuine level of mutual respect. When successful, they can last far beyond graduation.

 –Mechelle Bryson, Executive Director of Westlake Academy, USA

  1. Great educators all have different ways of helping students think and learn visually, and the common denominator of success is that they take the time to fill their classrooms with colourful visuals that capture students’ imaginations. These visuals help students stay on track with their learning journey, and can be used as reference points to help them better understand.

–Andy Vasily, Pedagogical Coach at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia

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8. A positive attitude goes a long way; students approach teachers everyday with different struggles, and it is our responsibility to stay positive and show them that education can be fun and interesting. This will also create a positive and exciting environment, which is ultimately what every teacher wants and what students need in order to be successful.

–Lacey Forman, DP Spanish Teacher at Kenwood High School, USA

  1. The best habit an educator has is planning; getting ready for a class is the most guaranteed way to make it a success. This also includes research and reading, which open our eyes to unseen chances and ideas, and collaboration. Combined efforts, and interdisciplinary links, can enrich any teaching strategy.

–Roweida Bawab, Biology Teacher at Houssam Eddine Hariri High School, Lebanon

  1. Be a role model! Exhibit the IB Learner Profile attributes and focus on the development of the whole child. Problem solve together. Show that making mistakes is a learning opportunity. Celebrate success!

–Ross O’Donnell, PYP Coordinator at GEMS World Academy, Dubai

  1. Communication – For over five years, my students have written a weekly newsletter that I email to parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other family friends. Regular communication with families enables all members of the family to talk with the child about events happening at school.

Such communication builds relationships between the teacher and the family, and perhaps the extended family. This practice has enabled me to bring grandparents into my classroom, via Skype or other means, as they share experiences that help support our units of inquiry.

–Sarah Lee, Grade One Teacher at Bilkent Laboratory and International School, Ankara, Turkey

  1. I strongly believe in being accessible to students; I’m always available to them during break times and willing to spend extra time with them when needed. This makes them feel that they are an important part of my daily life.

–Sreemati Sen, Deputy Head of National Curriculum at Dhirubhai Ambani International School, India

  1. Perseverance is vital for teachers because we have to continually try.

This is important because helping to shape and mould the knowledge base of any individual is not a task to be taken lightly. A student needs to see consistency in the lives of those around him/her.

–Sarah Lee, Grade One Teacher at Bilkent Laboratory and International School, Ankara, Turkey

  1. Teachers who stand out from the crowd understand that their job is not just to help students reach their potential, but to surpass their potential. Outstanding teachers assist their students in discovering their talents and skills, and help them understand how to use them and visualize the new possibilities they bring.

–Mechelle Bryson, Executive Director of Westlake Academy, USA

  1. Being reflective is a really powerful way of planning and teaching future lessons because it encourages you to consider the success of the habits and techniques you’ve used, and how you learn from and improve them. Ross O’Donnell, PYP Coordinator at GEMS World Academy, Dubai

What habits do you think highly effective teachers possess? Email: