24 Optimistic Instructor Assets to Empower and Empower You
It’s been six months. Teachers and students need life-affirming experiences every day of school. To help you and your students succeed, we have selected the materials and mindsets we found for truly enriching teaching and learning. You can laugh at how simple and “old school” they are. But that’s the point – it’s the little things in life that carry us. Off to the new school year! To you of you! And we hope some of these positive teacher resources will help brighten your day.
(Just a warning, WeAreTeachers may use the links on this page to collect a share of sales. We only recommend items that our team loves!)
1. A fresh new notebook
Why it works: Students aren’t the only ones recording learning in a notebook. Open a new notebook and write down what you learn about students and teachers.
2. Chart paper & easel; Whiteboard and dry erase markers
Why it works: The joint creation of artifacts from learning experiences helps students transfer new skills to new situations. Asking students to write and draw on whiteboards encourages engagement and gives them a chance to verify understanding.
3. Daily mindfulness practice
Why it works: You make so many decisions all day and it can get overwhelming. After the day is over, pause for a moment to perceive each of your five senses. What do you see, hear, smell, taste and feel?
4. A low, light stool
Why it works: A stool makes it easier to move around the classroom to meet with the students. Whether you’re stopping next to a small group or meeting individually, traveling to see students creates a learner-centered culture.
5. Active listening
Listening and hearing are two different things. Teachers who listen well build trust and become more responsive and able to solve problems. Listening carefully makes teaching better because you end up feeling more compassionate. Conversely, feeling too rushed to listen fully creates stress.
6. Auditory circles
Use an auditory group to work through hard parts in the classroom. For these audiences, keep it for about 10-15 minutes, a time when everyone is heard. Edutopia has a great article on how to get circles going in your classroom.
7. Picture books about the pandemic or other event
Sometimes there is nothing like a newly published story to help children come to terms with recent events. When it comes to cultural relevance, publishers have also really stepped on the gas since 2020. For example, Outside, Inside by Le Uyen Pham is a lovely narrative of the collective steps everyone took at the start of the pandemic. The art and the words are a remarkable tribute to the front line workers who are the heroes of our time.
9. Read SEL aloud
Many picture books are suitable for reading and discussion that promote social and emotional health. To make it meaningful, think of moments in the story that are ripe for questions that invite children to ponder a character’s self-esteem, decision-making, and attitudes toward others.
10. Social Justice Standards
Be the change you want to see in the world by applying K-12 Social Justice Standards. You take the guesswork out of maintaining identity, diversity, justice, and action across all content areas.
11. A mantra
Mantras help us focus on something that drives us. “We Can Do Hard Things” and “Peace Begins with Me” are two examples; Pick one for yourself and decide on one with the students.
12. Mirrors, windows, sliding logs
When reading or talking, the mirror concept promotes self-perception and representation. Windows symbolize looking outside and learning about others. Sliding doors stand for active engagement in the world. Look up Rudine Sims-Bishop for her simple yet profound insight into literature.
13. Empathy like never before
Empathy means understanding and sharing the feelings of others. It builds strong social connections. When we consciously model and encourage empathy, students learn to respond more attentively to situations. They get good at being champions of the collective community.
14. An intoxicating show
Right now there are some awesome shows out there to help us escape the tough parts of life temporarily. Record an episode or two every week.
15. Drinking app
Staying hydrated reduces stress. And yes, there is an app for that! Try Waterlama or one of the many apps available to remind you to drink water.
16. Class anthem
Share a song that will unite you and tear everyone from their places. Some suggestions: I’m a Destiny’s Child Survivor, Can’t Stop the Feelin ‘by Justin Timberlake, Get Back up Again by Anna Kendrick
17. Color pencils, paper, markers, glitter
Children starving for hands-on experience after a long period of distance or hybrid learning are entering school this year. You need a lot of tactile learning experience. So bring the tools for creativity! (These lovely watercolors are from Walmart.)
18. People in front of Pinterest
Pinterest can be a fantastic resource for us as long as we use it wisely – and for the good of the students. Sometimes cute and pretty is tempting but not helpful in class. Students are going to show us what is worth to be used from online resources, so be sure to check them out.
19th pod squad
Pick a favorite podcast, become a subscriber, and invite some friends to join a pod team. This shared experience and the weekly dose of entertainment are refreshing. Some podcasts to watch: This American Life, We Can Do Hard Things, The Good Life Project and Teachers Talk Shop
20. Marie Kondo instruction
Sometimes it’s important to clean up our Marie Kondo-style teaching practices. Like Marie, reflect on your current teaching practices at home and see if you and your students enjoy them. When they no longer belong in your repertoire, hold a room of gratitude for how this practice has served you and let go of them. This greatly simplifies teaching.
Gather evidence of student learning and set weekly goals, unit goals, and annual goals. Think about how students are developing socially, emotionally, and academically. Remember that it is not the experience alone that makes a good teacher, but reflection on the experience.
22. Use the timer
So often classrooms are dominated by too much teacher talk. Timers are simple and powerful tools for building your self-esteem and promoting a student-centered space where learners build understanding through their speaking.
23. Say no
Saying no opens up space in our compressed and busy lifestyle. Limits are fundamental to self-care. When cloudy, teachers often feel exhausted, burned out, and ineffective.
24. Say yes
Say yes to what drives you. As teachers, we are hardwired to give and put the needs of others before our own. Let this be the year you finally say yes to a hobby, class, regular spa or massage, or noisy book club. Whatever You Like. Life is short. Live it.