In December (which now seems like a hundred years ago!) I worked with a school district that is heavily invested in improving the quality of teaching.

They are doing a great job asking the right questions, inspecting teaching and the resulting data regularly and focusing on the effects of their teacher’s teaching on the students. It was all good.

However, I noticed something in a few classrooms that concerned me: teacher seemingly teaching on autopilot.

Here’s what it looked like:

  • The students were well behaved, albeit a bit robotic
  • The teacher was well prepared and had obvious master of the content
  • The students were following the teacher’s directions and so on

However, I had the distinct feeling that the teacher wasn’t “there” or wasn’t present during the lesson.

The teacher hit the marks and would have received check marks for evidence of good teaching practices, but the spirit of capturing the kids’ attention and truly taking interest in the content was missing. It seemed a bit like these few teachers had “been there, done that”.

The kicker? The students were performing well in the class despite a rousing endorsement of learning from the teacher!

I am realistic and practical to know that not every day of teaching is going to be a whiz bang, fireworks igniting and students weeping with joy over their newfound knowledge (though please let me know if you experience this daily, as I will personally fly to your area and take a look at it!), but we owe our students and ourselves some interest and excitement about the content…for both of these are highly contagious!

So what does interest and excitement look like? Some I believe will think that I’m referring to the teacher being “the sage on the stage”, but I know that while masterful teaching might include a bit of acting, it also includes mindfulness.

How are we mindful when we’re teaching?  Here are 4 thoughts!

  1. When students answer a question that, on the surface, is incorrect we delve deeper and ask follow up questions to determine WHY that student came to that response
  2. When students are working in small groups or independently, we do “check ins” and ask them “Tell me what you’re working on” or “How did you come to that response?”
  3. When we hear a rustling from the kids we don’t say “Shhh…!” we figure out what caused the rustling…maybe they are reacting to the content or making a connection that we can build on
  4. When a student asks a question, instead of listening to the initial (oftentimes simplistic) question, we ask them to tell us more about what they need to know, possibly unearthing the REAL question that might be at the root


Are you guilty of mindless teaching? 

Which of the 4 tips above will help pull you to into a mindful mindset?  Leave a comment!