I have just three words of advice

I have just three words of advice. Study your teaching.

You can’t control where your students come from, and you can’t control what their parents do, and you can’t control how society views them, and while all of these things are important, you can only pick a part of the problems you see and start working. Every dirty floor that gets cleaned starts with a single sweep of the broom.

Study your teaching.

What do you do that makes an impact? What do you have control over? Where can you make a difference? What are your goals for this group of students you have on this day in this place. Why are these students struggling and yet these ones are not? How do I move my students from here to there, and where is here anyway?

Study your teaching.

It’s up to no one else. You are in control of whether you improve or stay the same. Whether or not you preach personal responsibility for your students, you need to accept it for yourself. Take charge of your learning and make the assumption that you can always get better.

Study your teaching.

You know that no matter what anyone says, teaching is hard work. It just might be the most difficult work ever conceived. Fermat’s Last Theorem was once thought of as one of the most challenging problems in mathematics, but at least it is solved. We still don’t know how to ensure that every kid has the same opportunity to reach their full potential or even if this is a useful way to frame the challenges of teaching. Teaching is the noble profession that enables everyone’s dreams.

Study your teaching.

If you believe that teaching is hard, then why are you trying to do it alone? There is an old African proverb that says if you want to go quickly, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together. The journey to excellent teaching is long and hard and you will need to work with other people to reach it.

Study your teaching.

Educational fads come and go, but you should be curious why this is so? Why is it policy makers are always trying something new? Study for yourself what works and what does not. You must work with your colleagues to incrementally improve what you do, because in a world focused on quick fixes, no one else will.

Study your teaching.

It makes the work continually interesting. Instead of just marching through what you have always done, be curious about what you do and try out new things. The unexamined life is not worth living, but it is more appropriate to say that if you aren’t curious in what you do, you aren’t living at all. Life is too short to treat teaching as just a job. One source of happiness is curiosity.

Study your teaching.

Be systematic. Make no assumptions about what works and what does not. If everyone really understood the ideal path through which people learn, there would be no one like me still studying it. Be careful to examine your own biases and models for understanding the world. What led you to believe in x, and how do you know x is true? And if other people do not believe in x, why not? What is different about what they know and what you know?

Study your teaching.

What does it mean to teach? What are we trying to teach? Do you teach mathematics or do you teach children? Can you be human without attending to other people’s emotions? They say that they will never remember what you say, they will only remember how you made them feel. Is this true, and if so, how are you making your students feel?

I have only three words of advice, but if you heed them, then you have your life’s work ahead of you.

Study your teaching.





  • Good advice – and much of which I should remember more often.

    I’m ashamed to say my reflections on my teachings are too often during holidays (in the same way fitness drives tend to be after New Year)

    Do you study your teaching regularly and as a routine?

  • David Wees wrote:

    For most of my career, I think I reflected like you did, although perhaps more regularly. However, I am teaching again and I am being careful to study what my students are actually learning and what their needs are. As someone who regularly leads workshops, I am also trying to pay as close attention to what the teachers who work with me learn, in the same way I hope they pay attention to what their students learn.

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