The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teachers

As a young adult, one of my favorite books was The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It gave me the tools that I needed to make it in any space of human endeavor, and for that, I am forever grateful to the author, Stephen Covey (rest in peace). One of the areas of my life that applied the principles of this book was my career as a teacher, professor, and education administrator.

As I walked by one of the bookshelves in my study this morning, I glanced at the book and smiled. Before I spied it, I was in a minor rut, as I was unsure of what to write for my next article. This chance encounter inspired me to write an article entitled, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Teachers, an homage to one of my favorite books.

  1. Sharpen the saw. Don’t work yourself to death. Teaching can be one of the most labor-intensive careers if you let it. The trick is finding ways to work smarter and not harder. It means being as efficient as you can be, always. Instead of trying to be a super teacher and write all your lessons plans from scratch, find some on the internet, and revise them to meet the needs of your students. Also, for traditionally labor-intensive tasks like communicating with parents, move into modernity by finding a parent-school communication app to streamline the process.
  2. Be proactive. Instead of waiting for something to go wrong before you act, always look to solve potential problems before they materialize. You can do this by continuously improving your processes, even if you’re the current way of doing things is just fine. There is a reason why Microsoft keeps improving its Microsoft Office Suite and why Toyota’s current year vehicle line is more advanced than last years. Think of it as a constant strive for perfection that doesn’t end until you retire.
  3. Begin with an end in mind. People don’t plan to fail; they just fail to plan. Whatever you are doing, make sure you plan it all the way to the end. This kind of strategic thinking will increase the likelihood of success and save you a lot of wasted time and energy.
  4. Put first things first. When completing a task, or attacking a day, we sometimes save the most challenging part for last. This is a backward way of approaching things, as you should always deal with the most elaborate task first. This increases the likelihood that all of your duties with be completed. With the most difficult task out of the way, the rest of your day will be smooth sailing.
  5. Think win-win. Instead of approaching a situation from a win-lose angle, try to approach it from a win-win perspective. When negotiating with others, we tend to want to ensure that we get what we feel like we deserve and have a fear of getting the short end of the stick. Instead of doing this, try to create a solution in which each party can get something that they want and walk away as victors.
  6. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. It is human nature to want to be understood, and so we approach communication from that perspective. Instead of doing so, try seeking to understand the other person first, and then you can speak your mind. Doing so diffuses volatile situations and allows you to hear the other person’s perspective, which allows you to make a more measured and informed response.
  7. Synergize. You ever wonder why early childhood teachers make such a big deal of the developmental skill of “playing nice with others?” Because they know that to reach your potential in life, you will need to depend on other people. Nowhere is this more important than in the field of teaching. To become the best teacher you can be, and provide your students with the best possible education, you will need to collaborate with other teachers and education professionals.

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