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Stop Distracted Teaching: Students Should Come First

Posted by on in Teaching Strategies
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Classroom distractions are not limited to students. We teachers can be just as off task as our students without being fully aware of the extent of problem. It is not always easy to be completely focused on teaching or even our students all class long. We all experience legitimate distractions from time to time—an illness in our families or our own fatigue, for example.


However, those teachers who are so distracted that they do not fully attend to their students will have to deal with many more discipline problems than those teachers who are focused on the people and activity in their classrooms.  How guilty are you? The questions below may help you gauge the level of distraction you may be experiencing each school day.


Do you grade papers in class?


Do you leave your cell phone on while you are supervising students?


Do you find yourself without enough prepared handouts or other teaching materials?


Do you check email in class?


Are you distracted during class by your family responsibilities?


Are you distracted by routine paperwork chores such as book counts, attendance forms, or parent contact documentation?


Do you work on extracurricular activities such as clubs or sports that you sponsor while you are in class?


Do you confer with other teachers during class time?


Do you conduct personal business during class?


Although there may occasionally be a valid reason for not putting students first, teachers who want to establish a productive learning environment focus on their classroom responsibilities and the welfare of their students. To reduce your classroom distraction and put your students first, try these suggestions.


Be organized and prepared. Arrive at school a few minutes early and stay a few minutes late. This practice will allow you to take care of many of the small tasks that can distract your attention in class if you are not fully prepared.

Learn to ask for help and to delegate whenever possible. Ask your students to assist you if it would make routine tasks such as collecting papers or collecting field trip permission forms quicker and easier.


Take care to use your planning time at school as efficiently as you can. Establish routines that will allow you to maximize the time that you have available for the tasks that make your classroom run efficiently.


Control the electronics. Get in the habit of putting your cell phone away once class starts. Make a plan to check email at a specific time each day when you are not expected to supervise students.


If you have a major extracurricular commitment such as sponsoring a club or coaching a sport, do your best to ensure that it does not usurp your classroom duties. It’s not easy, but your students will benefit when you put them first.


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Julia G. Thompson received her BA in English from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg. She has been a teacher in the public schools of Virginia, Arizona, and North Carolina for more than thirty-five years. Thompson has taught a variety of courses, including freshman composition at Virginia Tech, English in all of the secondary grades, mining, geography, reading, home economics, math, civics, Arizona history, physical education, special education, graduation equivalency preparation, and employment skills. Her students have been diverse in ethnicity as well as in age, ranging from seventh graders to adults. Thompson currently teaches in Fairfax County, Virginia, where she is an active speaker and consultant. Author of Discipline Survival Guide for the Secondary Teacher, First-Year Teacher’s Checklist, The First-Year Teacher’s Survival Guide, and The First-Year Teacher’s Survival Guide Professional Development Training Kit, Thompson also provides advice on a variety of subjects through her Web site, www.juliagthompson.com; on her blog, juliagthompson.blogspot.com; and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/TeacherAdvice.

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Guest Thursday, 20 October 2016