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10 Ways That Teachers Can Improve The Lives Of Their Students

10 Ways That Teachers Can Improve The Lives Of Their Students

There are approximately 3.5 million teachers currently employed in the U.S., and many of them deal with daily challenges such as overcrowded classrooms and minuscule budgets. Despite these obstacles, there are numerous teachers who have found inspiring ways to improve the lives of their students. In fact, if you put even one of the following tips into action, it will have the potential to bring about life-altering results for each student.

1. Boost Their Self-Esteem With Wide-Reaching Class Projects

Many students struggle with the concept of finding worth in doing repetitious tasks that will never been seen by anyone but themselves and their teachers. Although some of this is unavoidable, there are many ways to develop class projects that have a much wider scope and reach.

A prime example is the book publication project developed by Detroit teacher Shannon Waite. Her English students were given the opportunity to write an essay, poem, and short story based on a central theme, and the best selections will be published and sold in a local bookstore. This type of experience is sure to boost each participating student’s self-esteem, which is especially critical in a disadvantaged urban environment.

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2. Take Advantage Of Free Offers For Supplies, Books, And More

Studies have found that teachers spend at least $500 annually on school supplies, so it is important for them to take advantage of any freebies that will help their students learn. This not only enables teachers to offer new learning tools, but it also prevents them from further stretching their personal budget. There are many online resources that can connect you with free educational supplies, including this USATestprep compilation of 55 Free Goods for Your School.

3. Incorporate Popular Modern Themes To Help Students Understand And Appreciate Difficult Subjects

Today’s students are very enamored with technology and other aspects of the modern world that didn’t even exist a few years ago. This can make it especially difficult to get them interested in classic literature that is 400 years old or historical information that seems completely irrelevant to them.

Fortunately, teachers have the ability to use modern themes in order to bring old concepts to life. It can be very powerful to meet them on their social and technological level, whether this means showing them a modern re-imagining of a Shakespeare story to get them interested in the original piece or using iPads to let them learn through technology they are comfortable with.

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4. Provide Honest Assessments An A Kind And Constructive Manner

It is necessary to offer honest assessments in order for students to truly learn and grow, but this can become negative if the proper approach is not used. A review of the link between teacher interaction and positive or negative student behavior has made it clear that kindness and constructive comments will go much further than simply pulling out the red pen.

In fact, a teacher’s level of friendliness and respect toward their students, along with self-regulation and the ability to fully explain the material, can have a huge impact on each student’s eagerness and acceptance of discipline, organization skills, and self-regulation. Overall, the more positive the teacher-student rapport is, the more accepting students are of constructive criticism, which in turn helps them improve.

5. Enable Students On The Spectrum To Utilize Their Unique Strengths

Children with autism typically have many challenges, but they also have unique strengths, including a thinking style that tends to be very outside-the-box. These students may require a specific type of instruction that is different from the norm. However, if you meet them halfway, it is very likely that they will excel in many subjects.

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For example, if a child with Asperger’s currently has baseball as their special interest, you can engage them in classroom assignments by letting them relate their work to the sport in some way. Other students will also benefit from seeing a different point of view. Providing these accommodations will increase the student’s self-esteem and may reduce bullying.

6. Lead By Example

Another way to diminish bullying in and outside the classroom is by setting a good example. It would be easy to give into frustration and say something to a student that is not positive, but doing this will capture the attention of their peers. If you must say something negative, it is best to speak to the student privately. By showing respect to your students, you will create a classroom culture that empowers them to learn and to treat others around them with respect as well.

7. Allow Your Students To Be Involved In Selecting Some Of The Classwork

There are certain parts of the curriculum that cannot, and should not, be changed. However, most teachers have at least some wiggle room with the daily classwork that they assign. Allowing your students to have some say in these assignments can make a big difference in how well they relate to and learn from them. If you have a less structured day on Fridays or before a holiday, get your students’ input on what they would like to work on. You should probably ask them to select between two or three options so that you get a clear answer, but making the process feel more democratic is still likely to capture their attention.

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8. Use Achievable, Short-Term Goal Setting To Encourage Their Educational Growth

Goal setting needs to be actionable, measurable, and achievable. It is also best to use positive language, even if you are correcting negative behavior or a knowledge deficit. Breaking larger goals into small, short-term chunks is one of the most effective ways to get students interested in achieving new accomplishments. Therefore, even if you need them to ultimately produce four separate works for one large project, it is better to focus on one piece of the puzzle at a time. This will make students feel more encouraged, and it will also give you a better opportunity to intervene quickly if someone is not following instructions or learning the material.

9. Provide Rewards For Extracurricular Volunteer Work

Studies have proven that volunteering is good for way to boost self-esteem and network with others. Additionally, learning early on about the value of volunteering can put someone on the path to being kinder to their peers. Some schools link volunteering to educational credits, and it is sometimes possible to get scholarships for giving back to the local community. You could also offer tangible rewards such as erasing one tardy for every hour of volunteering or allowing students to drop their lowest test score if they volunteered somewhere that semester.

10. Consider Teaming Up With A Local Bakery To Offer Classroom Snacks

An astounding 15.3 million children do not have steady access to food, and many of them may come to school without having eaten breakfast. This will make it much harder for them to learn, and they may also be more disruptive during class. To minimize this problem, consider asking a local bakery or grocery store to donate day-old items to your class. Do not list these items in this way, though. Instead, let every student know that the snacks are available and they are free to take one. This will relieve some of the burden of being in a household that experiences regular food insecurity, and it will help your students learn.

To get the most out of each day, teachers can also take advantage of tools that have been specifically designed to help them save time. Additionally, it is wise to slowly introduce new methods that can make the classroom more student-friendly so that you do not take on too much at once.

Featured photo credit: Lucélia Ribeiro via flic.kr

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Holly Chavez

Writer, Entrepreneur, Small Business Owner

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How to Control Your Thoughts and Become the Master of Your Mind

How to Control Your Thoughts and Become the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality.

I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

1. The Inner Critic

This is your constant abuser. He is often a conglomeration of:

  • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
  • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
  • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
  • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

He is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

Why else would he abuse you? And since “he” is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

2. The Worrier

This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

He is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it.

Occasionally, he is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

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3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

He is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

He can be set off by words or feelings. He can even be set off by sounds and smells.

He has no real motivation; he has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

4. The Sleep Depriver

This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

His motivation can be:

  • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
  • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
  • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
  • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

How can you control these squatters?

How to Master Your Mind

You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

There are two ways to control your thoughts:

  • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
  • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

For the Inner Critic

When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

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You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

“Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

  • He riles up the Worrier.
  • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
  • He is often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
  • He is a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
  • He is the destroyer of self-esteem. He convinces you that you’re not worthy. He’s a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get him out!

Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

Replace him with your new best friend who supports, encourages, and enhances your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

For the Worrier

Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tense

Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

“Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

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Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

For example:

If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

“I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

“Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tension

I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

Breathe in through your nose:

  • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
  • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
  • Focus on your belly rising.

Breathe out through your nose:

  • Feel your lungs emptying.
  • Focus on your belly falling.
  • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

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One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

For the Sleep Depriver

(He’s made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

  1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
  2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

You can also use this technique any time you want to:

  • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
  • Shut down your thinking.
  • Calm your feelings.
  • Simply focus on the present moment. 

Becoming the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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