50 Ways To Challenge Yourself As A Teacher

50-ways-to-challenge-yourself-as-a-teacher-fi50 Ways To Challenge Yourself As Teacher

by TeachThought Staff

Growing as a teacher is all about challenging yourself–moving out of our comfort zone, trying something new. Here are 50 ideas to consider.

  1. Learn a second language fluently (preferably one that is increasingly spoken in your geographical area).
  2. Create a closed Google+ community for your classroom, and use it.
  3. Challenge the district internet filter and win.
  4. Make sure every unit has a meaningful product of some kind that leaves the classroom.
  5. Read a balance of “Why teach?” with “How to teach” content.
  6. Describe the approach to learning taken in your classroom in one sentence, then ask for feedback via your professional learning network on social media.
  7. Make sure parents understand that sentence, too.
  8. Resist corny email signatures that don’t inspire anyone.
  9. Give equal credit for questions and answers. (Literally give “points” or whatever it is you use.)
  10. Know the difference between differentiation and personalization.
  11. Get rid of your teacher’s desk completely.
  12. Certify yourself in a second content area or grade level.
  13. Present at a local conference with a colleague.
  14. Present at state or national conference by yourself.
  15. Create a syllabus that’s actually useful to parents and students.
  16. Ensure that every single assignment is accessible to every single student in terms of reading level, background knowledge, and technology access.
  17. Write a research paper of at least 1000 words on the history of public education. (You may be surprised what you learn.)
  18. Read a book on education that seems to reflect the opposite of what you believe.
  19. Reach out to every single parent/family of students and create an authentic reason for them to visit your classroom this year.
  20. Connect every student with a mentor in the community.
  21. Flip your classroom.
  22. Laugh with your students, even if you have to play stand-up comedy.
  23. Shred all scripted curriculum.
  24. Have students record and curate the audio from every single group assignment.
  25. Smile at every student, every day.
  26. Throw out letter grades.
  27. Assign optional homework every night; encourage those that need the practice to do it, and those that don’t to create their own.
  28. Stay at home when you’re sick.
  29. Refuse to use cute little catch phrases (no matter how true) like “What I hear you saying is…”, or “We need more rigor.”
  30. Make sure students talk more to one another than they do to you during discussions.
  31. Throw out all of your lessons and units and start over from scratch.
  32. Read to your students (e.g., from a picture book or poem) at least 10 minutes per week no matter your grade level or content area.
  33. Use choice boards for every assignment. (Literally every one.)
  34. Co-create all rubrics with students.
  35. Make it cool to read.
  36. Admit when you’re wrong.
  37. End every class with “So? So what? What now?”
  38. For every idea you disagree with, present a rational counterargument or solution.
  39. Every time you correct a student, do so with a positive presupposition that’s authentic.
  40. Be honest at staff meetings.
  41. Run a book drive in the school’s community.
  42. Find the line between holding yourself accountable without beating yourself up.
  43. Memorize your academic “power standards” verbatim. Then create competencies for each power standard, and know those verbatim too.
  44. Create a lesson where you don’t say a single word.
  45. Let go.
  46. Refuse to serve on school committees that are functionally worthless.
  47. Videotape yourself teaching and share it with the world.
  48. Learn the exact differences between the academic standards from the year prior to the one you teach, and the one after.
  49. Make sure parents understand your grading policy.
  50. Bring every student to “proficiency” of every academic standard regardless of their literacy level, interest in school, attendance, background knowledge, or intellectual curiosity. (The ultimate challenge.)

50 Ways To Challenge Yourself As Teacher


  • Hello, I have to say this is an interesting list of challenges. Right now I’m checking how many I’ve actually tried, and unfortunately it’s been no more than 15. However, I still have so much to learn from my classes. I wanted to ask if someone could explain to me numbers 3, 8, 42 and 44 (sorry, I’m a spanish native speaker). Thanks!

    • 3. Internet filters are digital walls that lock certain websites out so that teachers and students can’t access them from school computers. Many of these choices made here are obvious–graphic or violent content, for example. Other choices don’t make as much sense, and are often made without understanding the content that’s been blocked. The idea here was to challenge some of those less logical choices so that students can access the content they need.

      8. This is just a pet peeve of mine, honestly. Email signatures that say things like “Reach for the stars every day.” Some may be inspired by them.

      42. Every teacher wants to do their best. Teaching is serious–failure in education can make or break a child’s future. This causes some teachers to “care so much” they can no longer effectively do their jobs: they care more than they teach, and burn out.

      44. Idea here is to teach a lesson in total silence. No talking.

      Hope that helps!

      • I think I may be having problems like number 42, I tend to care a lot about my lesson plan and I sometimes totally forget if students feel like they’re actually learning. I’ve also felt I prepare my students for the exam, and so I don’t teach them other kind of useful topics. Nevertheless, I’m still learning how to teach and I hope I fix this. Thank you for the explanation!

  • #9 – Love it!
    #26 – Improbable

    #51 – Delete all your ppt files.
    #52 – Find and learn to use a new website or application that makes you more efficient or reaches students in new ways.

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