Ask Brad: What is the first thing you would tell an aspiring teacher?



Today I was reading an email from a girl who is studying to be a teacher. She asked me “What advice can you give me?” and all these ideas came to my head. So, I decided to BLOG about it and share it with the world.

Here is my list of things I would tell aspiring teachers (no particular order):

  1. PASSION – The best teachers teach from the heart.  They do it because they love it, not because they get a few months off during the school year.
  2. PROMOTE POSITIVE ATTITUDES– This is important to do to the students, parents and the teachers in your school.  We are all wanting the same thing, and that is whatever is best for the student.  We are all on the same team so let’s look at the positive side of things!
  3. NEVER GIVE UP ON A CHILD– Why are you a teacher?  I often believe we are teachers to be there for those kids that have nobody else fighting for them.  Some kids have no voice, or don’t know how to speak up, or in some cases don’t really know what to say or what their needs are.  As teachers, we must always believe that our students can learn and can be successful.
  4. DON’T FORGET THE POWER OF ONE– That all is takes is for one teacher to make a difference in the life of a child.  So, what do I tell you people aspiring to be teachers?  Don’t pass the buck!  You need to be that ONE teacher to make a difference in the life of that kid!
  5. THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX– It is so easy on a tough day to go back and teach students the way we might have been taught: to open the book to page 101 and do problems 1-30 and when they are done bring their answers to the teacher to check them.  NO! Best practice shows that there are better ways to teach students then the way we learned years ago.  Be hands on, give kids real life experiences, do problem solving, build a community with your class, engage those kids to work together on authentic work.  Don’t just give worksheets in elementary school and don’t just give lectures in high school.  Be original and go teach the way you might have wanted to be taught.  It’s ok to have your students color outside the lines every now and then!
  6. FOCUS ON STUDENT’S STRENGTHS AND NOT THEIR WEAKNESSES– All parents know the things that their children do bad.  You don’t need to remind them every single day.  What if that was your child?  Wouldn’t you want to know the good things your child does each day?  It might not be easy, but it is your job as a teacher to dig deep, maybe deeper than you ever have before, and find that child’s strength and allow them to shine just like your straight A students.
  7. COMMUNICATION– I remind you to always communicate, and I’m not just talking about communicating with the parents.  Sometimes you need to get down on your hands and knees and communicate with the child.  Ask them what you need to do to help them be a better learner?  Ask them why they are having difficulties in class?  Sometimes it is not the student who has the issue, it could be you?  Just be willing to listen and have an open mind to try something new to help some of your students.  Remember- your learning style might not be the same as their learning style? Change could be good for the entire class?
  8. BE YOURSELF– Bring the great things about you to the class.  For me, being a male in elementary education was different because it doesn’t happen often.  I brought my love of sports to the classroom.  My feeling was I could introduce my students to many things in one year that they might not have for the next ten years.  Bring your talents to the class, you will have some kids who will follow your footsteps.
  9. BE A LIFE LONG LEARNER– Your learning will not stop once you graduate and get your first job.  In matter of fact, your true learning has just begun!  Continue doing staff development in your area and take classes to learn the latest and greatest.  Form professional book groups at your school and read about the same topic of Reader’s Workshop or How to Engage Your Students More. Then have conversations and improve your teaching abilities.  Go to conferences and listen to speakers in the field of education.  Continue learning technology just to keep up.  And 100% go to grad school and get another degree, it will only make you a better teacher.
  10. READ AND WATCH FRONT OF THE CLASS– Of course I was going to add this to the list.  Not because I say so, but because the amount of emails I’ve received since the movie aired on CBS told me this needs to happen.  I truly believe that both teachers and students can become better people after learning about my story.  I know book groups are forming and many schools are showing Front of the Class to their students.  The conversation that will happen afterwards will be a powerful lesson that everyone can learn from.  I’m currently working on a “Teachers Guide” to go along with the movie to focus on Character Education words that go with the movie. Should be ready soon.

What would you tell aspiring teachers as they enter the classroom?

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"Brad Cohen is a walking billboard for the idea of living positively. He is like a cold drink on a hot day--refreshing, energizing, and likely to put a smile on your face."
Tim Shriver - Chairman of Special Olympics

"I have observed the magic of Brad Cohen in the classroom. He has turned Tourette Syndrome into an asset, and his life into inspiration."
Senator Johnny Isakson, Georgia

"Brad Cohen's story is a triumph of hope, determination, will and relentless good humor."
Peter J. Hollenbeck, Ph.D., Professor and
Associate Head of Biological Sciences,
Purdue University

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