One of my favorite things about a new school year is the anticipation of what I’m going to learn this year. New students, new parents, and new colleagues all offer new opportunities for me to learn on the job. Here are my tips for learning as much as you can this school year:


You can learn so much by listening. You can learn about your students’ interests, the careers of your students’ parents, and the teaching techniques of your colleagues. Try to incorporate your students’ interests into your curriculum. They will be more engaged and interested in your content if you are making an effort to connect with them and their interests. Talk to them and listen to their answers. They will also be more receptive to learning if they feel that you care about them in school. Take note of the careers of the parents in your class and use them as a resource throughout the school year. The more exposure students get to various careers and subject areas, the better. This is also a great way for you to learn something about another career or subject area.

Have an open mind and a positive attitude

Your students have knowledge to offer you if you’re receptive. Their life experiences and interests may have provided them with experiences and opportunities that differ from yours. Be open to learning from them. Allow them to be the expert in something and to teach you something new. Don’t be offended that they have different knowledge than you do, be positive and receptive to learning what they have to offer.

Be observant

You can learn a lot about your students by observing. What are they reading? What are they wearing? These things will give you clues about their interests and can be starting points for conversations and learning experiences.

Ask questions

Don’t be afraid to ask your students how they learn or what they want to learn. Don’t be afraid to ask your new colleague how she does something that you struggle with. And be receptive to the answers. Be open to trying new things and see if they work for you. Be reflective as you determine what works for you and what doesn’t work.

Don’t get stuck

Just because you’ve always done something a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the best way. Don’t get stuck doing something because it’s comfortable or easy. Be willing to try new, innovative things as opportunities arise.

Admit to mistakes or not knowing

Everybody makes mistakes. That’s an important life lesson. Don’t be afraid to admit to making mistakes to your students so that they see that it’s ok to make mistakes. Making mistakes in your classroom will be easier for them and will open the door to new learning opportunities.

It’s also ok to admit to not knowing the answer to something. It creates a wonderful, authentic learning opportunity for students. It shows them that it’s alright not to know the answer. If time permits, you can model how to find the answer using Google and turn it into a teachable moment.


Allison Papke is a veteran teacher with experience teaching elementary, middle, and high school as well as teaching literacy coursework to undergraduates in elementary and special education. She also has experience as a tech specialist for grades K-10 and experience as a technology coach working with elementary teachers and college students to plan and implement technology into classroom instruction. She is currently earning her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Literacy Studies and Digital Literacy.

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