by Dr. Marcus Jackson July 17, 2018

Being a teacher is one of the most stressful yet fulfilling jobs in America. Every teacher will have frustrating moments, seemingly impossible deadlines, an expectation to overcome enormous obstacles, and there will be days where you will feel like throwing in the towel. Additionally, there will be days when your heart will be overwhelmed with joy as if you had ignited a flame in your students that will burn for a lifetime. You can have the perfect lesson plan with enough resources for everyone, and it will still not go as planned or be a disaster. In my experience as a principal whether it was at the elementary, middle, or high school level, there were “10 Essentials I Observed Successful Teachers Engage in Daily.”

#1 Wake Up Excited About the Day

Every morning when I awake, I’m not only filled with energy, excitement, and enthusiasm about being blessed to see another day, but also elated that I’m in a position to touch and change a child’s life and inspire students through their experience at school.

Each day is filled with new opportunities and a chance to do something amazing. The minute you wake up, you can choose to say “I get to go to work” or “I have to go to work”. I choose to say, I get to go to work, because this is my mission and my purpose.  Generally, the way we start our day influences how we feel for the rest of the day.

5 ways you can start your day off on a positive note:

  1. Set your alarm clock about 15 minutes early. This allows you time to wake up and begin your day. Additionally, if you had a long day and night the previous day and press the infamous snooze button, and you’re still on time.
  2. When you wake up in the morning, take a few minutes to appreciate that you’ve been given another opportunity on this earth. Take a few deep breaths and find something that you’re blessed for (your children, partner, your health, the warm bed you are in, the car you’re driving, and the fact that you have a job). Take this time to be thankful for all that you have in your life instead of wasting your energy on thinking about what you don’t have, what happened yesterday, the irate parent you’re meeting with, the IEP meeting with the advocate, and the districts’ instructional focus walk through.
  3. Drink a glass or bottle of water before doing anything else. This will get your blood flowing and organs ready for an awesome day.
  4. Start the day off with breakfast. This breakfast should not be heavy; it can consist of a fruit, protein bar, or oatmeal.
  5. Be clear that the day will be a positive. That meeting with the irate parent will go well, the IEP meeting will be fine, and the feedback you will be receiving from your district walkthrough will be positive. To create, manifest, and attract this positivity, you must believe it; bring into your heart, mind, and spirit your intent that your day will be positive. In other words, you must truly feel it and mean it to make it happen!

Most people don’t understand the power of thoughts. However, your outlook has a tremendous impact on the outcome.

#2 Establish an Inspirational Routine for the Morning Commute

The average teacher has a commute time of 25-40 minutes, successful teacher try to make good use of that time as part of their workday.

Here are a few ways you can be productive during your commute:

  1. Catching up on podcasts or listen to inspirational audio books.
  2. Hands-free calling to get a head start on critical or time-sensitive issues. Use this time by calling a difficult parent on the way to school to inform them that you are looking forward to the meeting. This sets the tone as the parent is caught off guard that you are: 1) giving them a call so early 2) you’re excited about the meeting and 3) you’ve taken your commute time and you’re thinking about them and their child.
  3. Send an inspirational text message to your colleagues, students, and parents.
  4. Read and respond to emails (for those who use public transit).
  5. Have a pep talk with someone who is always positive and inspirational.

#3 Arrive Early

During the school year your schedule is overflowing with important responsibilities. One of the best ways to manage them effectively, meet student needs and excel at your job is by arriving to school early.

No one likes the feeling of being rushed during their commute and arriving to work with little time to spare. Resolve to avoid this feeling and all the stresses it creates by getting to work at least a half hour early.

Everyone can benefit from getting to work early. You’ll enjoy your job more, and the students will feel the benefits as well. Students benefit when their teacher is in a relaxed frame of mind. Students are more likely to receive optimized material, learn more effectively and retain the knowledge at a deeper level.

#4 Strategically Plan to Meet the Needs of Every Child

With expectations for student achievement at an all-time high, school district leaders and teachers are becoming more assertive than ever in shaping instruction. Educators who understand that schools are complex, interdependent social systems can move their organizations toward successful academic achievement for all students.  Much of what is regarded as new or innovative in education has a long historical record. Individual instruction, team teaching, open classrooms, schools without walls, alternative schools for secondary students, work study programs, nongraded schools, and competency-based programs have all been tried in one form or the other.

Differentiated instruction is a way of teaching in which teachers proactively modify curriculum, teaching methods, resources, learning activities, and student products to address the needs of individual students or small groups of students to maximize the learning opportunity for each student. This form of instruction affects what teachers teach; how teachers adapt what they teach to the ways in which students learn; and how students show what they have learned based on their readiness levels, interests, and preferred learning modes. Differentiated instruction involves classroom practice that looks “eyeball to eyeball” with the reality that students differ, and the most effective teachers do whatever it takes to “hook” the whole range of students on learning.

#5 Intellectual Humility: Be Open to Learning Something New Everyday

Intellectual humility is defined as having a consciousness of the limits of one’s knowledge, including a sensitivity to circumstances in which one’s native egocentrism is likely to function self-deceptively; sensitivity to bias, prejudice and limitations of one’s viewpoint. Unplanned interactions and observations can provide teachers with the clues about who students really are, what they’re thinking, and what they need to learn. In the spring, while observing a teacher, I realized the male students were not grasping the concept as well as the female students. I asked the teacher for permission to interject. She eagerly gave me instructional control of the class, and she became the observer. I modeled my instructional expectations by providing content-related examples using football, basketball, and baseball. The boys immediately grasped the concept, and their engagement increased. The next day the teacher approached me and thanked me for not modeling, but showing her a different way to reach her boys through sports. She stated, “the students showed me exactly how they preferred to learn and as a result I’m a better teacher.” That’s intellectual humility!

#6 Greet Every Student, Every Morning

This is the most important part of a teacher’s day. It’s important for the teacher to meet and greet every student, teacher, and staff member. “Good morning, good morning, good morning! How are you? I’m excited to see you. Have an awesome day”. This should be a greeting to every student as they are entering the classroom. This provides the teacher not only an opportunity to not only give a warm welcome but observe and see who’s having a rough morning and may need additional inspiration or a few minutes to relax before going into the classroom.

#7 Deliver an Inspirational Morning Message to Your Students

Every morning there should be a morning message from the teacher. This message sets the tone. Students should be reminded of the expectations, procedures, and protocol. Additionally, an inspiring and personal message or quote should be implemented to get everyone excited about the day. This should be the same message every day. Please see an example below.

Morning Announcements

Students Remember _________ is a no fighting school. We handle our differences and problems without violence. Students remember the safe place and utilize the STAR technique. Stop, Take a deep Breath, and Relax when faced with an emotional situation that may cause a negative reaction. Students I’m expecting superlative behavior every class period, every hour, every minute, and every second. Also, remember the 3 rules of life 1) listen; 2) always try your best; and 3) never give up. Students repeat after me. My principal has given me 3 A’s: I’m awesome, I’m amazing, and I’m appreciated.

Finally, remember ___________ is a place where pursuit of perfection is expected, excellence is acceptable, and mediocrity is not an option. Don’t let anyone tell you the sky is the limit when we have footprints on the moon. Please have a Marvelous Monday!

#8 Ensure the Academic Day Begins with a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Component

Make it a goal to start each day with a personal connection. It doesn’t need to be a time-consuming or elaborate procedure. It could be as simple as giving a warm greeting to welcome each person as they arrive in the morning. A great activity is a today I feel (see below). This allows the students an opportunity to reveal how they truly feel. This provides a wealth of information to meet the social and emotional needs of each student.


#9 Prepare/Plan for a Phenomenal Day but Expect the Unexpected

As a teacher, there’s one thing the you can absolutely guarantee and that’s out of 180 days of school, no two days will ever be the same. Additionally, you can expect to inherit every problem of the world. No matter how great of a teacher you are, how great your test scores are, and no matter how well you planned your lesson, expect for something crazy to happen. Whether it’s a student telling you a family member touched them inappropriately, discovering pornographic material on a child, hearing about a student being abused, or discovering on of your students homeless can alter your entire day. Therefore, it’s important to plan for a phenomenal day, but you should always expect the unexpected.

#10 Dismiss Your Students with an Inspirational Message, Reflect, Revise, and Reset

Every day after school teachers should close their door, take a deep breath, and prepare to relax, reflect, revise, and reset. They should turn the lights off, turn the lamp on, listen to the ocean (music), close your eyes, and take about 10 minutes to simply relax (try not to fall asleep). Immediately after that, you should reflect on the day.

A few questions should be: 1) how effective was I today; 2) was I able to meet the social and academic needs of each of my students; and 3) finally, what adjustments do I need to make tomorrow to be more effective? A teacher should look in the mirror and reflect every.

As I reflect on my 13 years as an administrator and after interviewing over 50 teachers, these are 10 things highly effective teachers did every single day. Although, about 100 other items can be added to this list, they found these to be most important. However, the most important thing that I did not list is that teachers should find a way to laugh at least 15 times per day at school. Laughter lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, and relaxes muscle tension. It’s a critical component to a positive culture.

Finally, being a teacher is one of the toughest jobs ever. However, you have some options. You can either run the day, or the day will run you. Ensuring these 10 things are done helps teachers run the day.