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{taken from the book Welcome to Teaching…and Our Schools}

If you are to be an effective teacher, your lesson plans must include more than just the academic subjects your students will study. They must also include the basic objectives of the whole schooling process. That’s why, as professional educators, we all have a definite place to begin each school year—regardless of the grade or subject being taught. And we might all learn a valuable lesson regarding beginning from those teachers who meet students entering kindergarten for the first time.

When children begin their education in kindergarten, teachers know that meeting certain needs is paramount. That’s why they begin with five objectives firmly in mind. These five objectives are essentials—whether you work with kindergartners or high school seniors. {Tweet this} They are the basic ingredients of any teaching plan, no matter what grade or course you teach.


The first objective is the recognition that all students need assurance that they are both liked and valued for themselves. This need has no age or grade boundaries—and can’t be “ho-hummed” or “pooh-poohed” by any professional teacher.

Assurance of self-worth is the foundation for helping each student fit into the school program, identify with learning, and strive to achieve to his or her potential. You begin to meet this need when you welcome students to your classes and tell them—individually and collectively—that you are glad they are there. Being warm, friendly, and enthusiastic on the first day is the way to begin reaching this objective. A cold and rigid approach is never the appropriate professional technique, regardless of any teacher reasoning that may appear to justify it.

On the first day, you need to share with students specifically what you have planned for them to achieve, rather than emphasize what they can’t do—or what they are required to do. You can achieve this goal only by presenting yourself as a caring and helping partner in the learning process. If “making sure every student knows I’m the boss” is your first-day objective, you only lay the groundwork for student-teacher barriers, rather than for the openness and receptivity that you need so very much in order to be an effective and happy teacher.

Second, your teaching plan must offer students opportunities to learn by doing, rather than simply by listening. Classroom and lesson plan structure is necessary, but so is a teaching plan that does not chain students to a desk in a formal stand-up, sit-down, raise-your-hand conformity. In meeting this objective you reveal your teaching creativity. Your lessons must stimulate activity and involvement for all, not just the eager and the bright. You must also extend to students the opportunity to try out their own ideas and develop self-expression.

Therefore, your teaching plan simply must provide your students with both an assurance of self-worth and an active role in learning. Herein lies a key to motivating students and making your teaching dynamic and relevant. This must be your starting point on the first day, as well as all the days that follow. In addition, you need to help students learn how to interact.


Third, students need interaction with others in order to learn how to give and take. This is a lesson they will use throughout life. None of us ever outgrow the need to find balance in life between giving and taking. That’s why young people of all ages and all grades need to have the opportunity to work with others—directly. A lesson plan that does not allow students interaction with both teacher and classmates leaves out a valuable asset necessary for productive living.

Fourth, students must develop habits and attitudes that enable them to work at a task until it is completed. They must learn to work amid distractions. The world doesn’t stop or even slow down just to make it easier for people to get their jobs done. Students are not the exception to this reality of life. Interference and distractions are the norm in the classroom as well as in the world of work. That’s why your lesson plan must be geared toward meeting students’ need to acquire the self-discipline necessary to complete assignments and achieve goals. In many ways, the degree to which this objective is met determines whether or not students will be achievers—after graduation as well as while they are in school.

Finally, if you intend to meet these other four objectives, you cannot let your teaching plan become a rule rather than a tool. You must allow in your lesson plan the flexibility to compensate for individual student needs, interests, abilities, and differences. If you think all students can start at point A and arrive at point D just because this sequence is the structure of your course, class, or unit, you are mistaken. As professional educators, each of us must meet our students where they are academically and take them as far as they can go. That’s what teaching is all about. Their starting points are our starting points.


The classroom teacher is the vital element in the learning process. A healthy student-teacher relationship is one of partnership. That’s why you must not minimize the importance of the first days of school. Your beginning approach and plan convey the tone and may even establish the climate in the classroom for the entire year.

Never forget, fundamental educational objectives and philosophies don’t vary with grade or age. Only the content of academic material and the level of sophistication progress with grade and age. Your lesson plans must be focused on the individual student. You do not teach a class. You teach students in a class. {Tweet this} The student rather than the subject matter is the first consideration. Realizing this truth will keep your professional perspective intact and allow you to approach your responsibilities from a student-centered viewpoint.

If you give all students the opportunity to meet their needs through these five objectives, you will have given them an educational experience that will provide them with a lifetime of benefits. The Master Teacher realizes that the challenge and the expertise of teaching are to make the journey of learning as exciting and rewarding as the satisfaction of reaching the destination. You can never forget this truth if you want to be successful in the classroom. In addition, you must be aware of the relationships all students have in the classroom.

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Have a good story about your first year teaching? Tell us all about it in the comment section below…

Thought for the Week

Finding ways to engage students, increase learning efficiency, and extending recall of what students learn can be a constant quest. Fortunately, designing activities and employing strategies that release the flow of dopamine in our students’ brains can help us to meet this challenge, especially now.

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