5 Things Cool Teachers Do

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It took about 15 years for me to figure out that students work hard for teachers they like. They work even harder for the cool teachers.

Some teachers say, “I’m not here to entertain. I’m here to teach.” A long time ago, I said it. This attitude doesn’t impress today’s learners. Even studious kids want cool teachers. So, use these strategies to jettison your stodgy self and get your cool on.

5 quick tips to get your cool on

1 – Cool teachers use social media

It’s important for educators to be connected, as it helps them grow professionally. It’s way cooler, though, to use social media in the classroom as an instructional and collaboration tool. Want every student to participate in your class discussion? Conduct your chat on Twitter or Todays Meet. Want to encourage reading? Invite kids to review books on Goodreads. Students love social media. Use it for teaching and learning, and you’ll be well on your way to cool.

2- Cool teachers sometimes look silly

While it may seem contradictory to connect silly and cool, students believe teachers who are willing to be self-deprecating, a little awkward and even silly, in an effort to engage learners, are very cool. If you take yourself too seriously and cling to the “I’m-not-an-entertainer” mentality, students will see you as erudite and will be more likely to shut down. Want an amazing guide to turning silly to cool, check out Dave Burgess’ Teach Like a Pirate.

3 – Cool teachers embrace chaos

Want to be cool tomorrow? Before students arrive, re-arrange your desks or post an eye-popping sign or question. Instruct students to do something noisy as they enter the room or ask them to group themselves any way they wish. Encourage movement. Play loud music. Sit on the floor. Shout (not at them but with them). We live in a chaotic world. Create an environment of “controlled chaos” in your classroom, and feel the cool as it envelops you.

4 – Cool teachers understand trends

Do you listen to Ariana Grande? Do you have a Trivia Crack high score? Is your Twitter Klout higher than your students’ Klout? If you’re scratching your head at these questions, your trend meter is in the red. This isn’t to suggest that you have to waste hours daily playing games or following celebrities on Twitter. Learn the language, though, and students will definitely think you’re cool. When kids are milling about outside your class or chatting it up in small groups, their favorite trends will invade the conversation. Anytime you can chime in with something insightful about their new song choice, movie, game or fashion statement, you gain instant credibility, build rapport and amp up your cool.

5 – Cool teachers break the rules

Take a moment to consider the many ridiculous rules in your school’s Student Handbook. Most of these archaic documents are littered with unrealistic rules:

  • No gum chewing
  • No leaving seats without teacher permission
  • No cell phones in class
  • Insert stupid rule here

Cool teachers know which boundaries can easily be crossed in their classrooms without the school crumbling. You don’t have to openly disobey the handbook. Just look the other way. Kids are quick to pick up on this. “She’s so cool,” you’ll overhear. “I bring a water bottle to class, and as long as I keep it in my purse when I’m not drinking it, she’s okay with it.” This is the dialogue of students who will do just about anything to make their cool teachers happy.

Check off any of these items immediately, and see how quickly students start calling you the cool teacher.

Best of all, see how quickly learning becomes fun in your classroom.

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Mark Barnes is the author of many education books, including Bestseller Hacking Education, part of his Hack Learning Series, books that solve big problems with simple ideas. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and student-centered learning. Join more than 100,000 interested educators who follow @markbarnes19 on Twitter.
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