Five Mistakes Teachers Make

By University Alliance

A career in teaching can be incredibly rewarding, but it can be demanding as well. Teachers need to master several key skills to be successful in the classroom. New teachers are often so focused on trying to do a good job that they make small mistakes, which can lead to poor student and teacher performance. Since each new school year brings a new group of students with their own unique needs, even seasoned teaching professionals can make these common mistakes in the classroom.

1. Substituting Assignments for Teaching

Although most teachers routinely assign homework, worksheets, projects, and other items as part of their lesson plans, some make the mistake of equating assignments with teaching. Just because an assignment reflects a learning objective and yields a grade for the grade book does not mean that the objective was taught. Teachers should use assignments to reinforce objectives that they have already taught. Assignments can also be used for student practice or for teachers to assess students’ understanding of concepts, but giving an assignment should not be a substitute for teaching. 

2. Assuming a Lesson Taught is a Lesson Learned

Most teachers recognize that different students have different capabilities and learning styles, yet many still assume that once they have finished teaching the lesson, students will have learned it. In reality, the lesson might have worked for some students while leaving others with little understanding and much less mastery of the material. Effective teachers recognize this and develop other methods to present material. They monitor student engagement and response to gauge whether or not their approach is working.

3. Inadequate Planning for Classroom Management

Without proper classroom management, even the most experienced educator will have trouble teaching effectively. Good classroom management requires teachers to be proactive by developing a plan at the start of the school year that allows them stay in control the classroom. Teachers who wait to develop a plan until after they experience behavioral issues will face the difficult, if not impossible, task of trying to regain control after they have lost it.

4. Overly Rigid, Inconsistent, or Unfair Discipline Policies

Effective teachers develop a discipline plan at the start of the school year, communicate it clearly to students, and apply it in a consistent and fair manner. Punishing the entire class for the behavior of a few, punishing some students but not others for the same infraction, or applying rules in a haphazard manner all undermine the teacher’s authority and leave students without clear expectations and guidelines for behavior.

Having an overly aggressive or rigid approach leaves the teacher without the flexibility to adapt rules to fit the situation. A teacher who is flexible enough to accommodate different learning styles and arrangements can create a classroom that fosters learning while preserving behavioral boundaries.

5. Low Student Expectations

Generally, students will seek to perform at a level consistent with performance expectations. Teachers who teach in low-performing schools are particularly susceptible to making the mistake of setting low expectations for student achievement. In other cases, teachers set low expectations based on their perception of what an individual student is capable of. Teachers can avoid making this mistake by setting high expectations that are reasonable and appropriate and by communicating their belief in their students’ ability to achieve goals.

How to Avoid Making Common Teaching Mistakes

Teachers can avoid common classroom mistakes by:

  • Using assignments to reinforce, but not replace, classroom teaching
  • Assessing student response to ensure that each lesson is effective
  • Establishing and enforcing an equitable discipline policy
  • Adapting lessons and rules to accommodate individual student needs
  • Setting challenging goals for achievement

If you find yourself making any mistakes in the classroom, often simply being aware of the mistake or enlisting the help of another experienced teacher is all that is needed to rectify things.

Category: Teaching Tips