The 7 Bad Habits of Ineffective Teachers


Think back to when you were in school – did you have any teachers that were just, well, to be honest, bad teachers? Or maybe there are some teachers you know now who are just simply not that effective.

It’s certainly not our job to point fingers or critique others, but what we absolutely should do is take a long, hard look at ourselves and make sure that we are not falling into any of these bad habits.

7 Bad Habits of Ineffective Teachers

So, here you go, 7 habits that, in my opinion, will lead you to be a less effective teacher.

7 Bad Habits of Ineffective Teachers

  1. Focusing on being liked. I think everyone wants to be liked, but if you keep thinking about how you want your students to like you, this is absolutely going to affect your teaching. And not in a good way. You’ve gotta’ focus on being a good teacher whom your students can respect. Ironically, students normally end up liking teachers they respect more than ones who are trying to be the cool teacher.
     
  2. Yelling at the students. I think all of us have yelled at some point, but if this is your habit, it’s not a good one. Yelling rarely produces any good results and almost always results in a loss of respect. So instead of berating students and flying off the handle, try taking a deep breath, getting really quiet, then calmly but firmly saying what needs to be said. I talk more about this in my post “Should We Ever Yell at the Kids?
     
  3. Letting little things go. When I first started teaching I let a lot of little things slide because I didn’t want to whack kids on the head for seemingly insignificant things. The problem, though, is that if you fail to address little problems, they fail to stay little. They quickly grow, and soon your class is out of control and you are definitely not effective (at least that’s what happened to me). What I learned is that I needed to address each issue, even if it was simply saying something like, “Ian, please sit up in your seat.” I talk more about this in my post “Why We Need to Deal with Problems Before They’re Problems.
     
  4. Being inconsistent. It’s tough to be consistent. Believe me, I know. (I even wrote about it here.) But being inconsistent in our classroom management leads to a multitude of problems. So we’ve just gotta’ do it. We’ve gotta’ learn to be consistent. (Unless there’s a very good reason not to be. See my post “How Do You Know When to Give Mercy?” for more thoughts on that.)
     
  5. Failing to properly prepare. We all have days that we realize last minute that we forgot to make copies of that worksheet we really need, but if you find yourself habitually starting class not sure what you’re doing today, you’re in trouble. Yes, you might make it through the class, but you’re just not going to be as effective as you could be if you’d prepared adequately. So determine to do your best to prepare as much as possible. And if you’re feeling completely overwhelmed, do what you can now and determine to really put in the work over the next summer so you’re not in this position again.
     
  6. Being defensive. Whether it’s a student, a parent, or an administrator who’s critiquing us, when we get defensive we rarely deal with the issue correctly. We need to seek first to understand and be open to the possibility that there might be a better way. We’ll grow as teachers and also gain a lot of respect. A little humility sure goes a long way. I write more about this in the post “How to Handle Constructive Criticism.
     
  7. Thinking that you’ve figured it out. Whenever we start to think that we’ve got in down, that we don’t need to keep learning and growing, we start stagnating. And we’re less effective than we could be if we kept looking for new ideas and better ways to teach.

Have you fallen into any of these bad habits? Are there any other habits you think contribute to ineffectiveness? Share your thoughts with a comment below.


Linda Kardamis

I believe that when God calls us to teach, He promises the strength & wisdom to do it well. All we need to do is keep learning, growing, and depending on Him. I'm here to provide practical advice and Biblical encouragement so you'll have the confidence and perspective to not only inspire your students but reach their hearts as well.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Laura Vela - October 20, 2014

Hello Linda, thank you very much for all you send to me. I would like to know how can I get the books you wrote.

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Ashley Bolton - October 20, 2014

I am really struggling with the not yelling as a first year teacher! I feel like even when I am trying to institute the WBT style of teaching. It is new to the students and I so it has been my biggest struggle. I try not to yell, but I feel I do it more than I should.

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    Linda Kardamis - October 21, 2014

    It’s challenging for sure! The fact that you’re trying not is most important…..so just keep doing your best! Another thing that can help is figuring out what you are going to do INSTEAD of yelling. That way you’ll have a response prepared instead of just reacting by yelling.

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    Javada - August 30, 2015

    I’m Not sure what grade you teach, but as an elementary teacher I struggled with the same……I found using the ‘attention getters’ everytime I felt the need to yell AND IT WORKS!!!! Ex. Teacher says ‘ Macaroni and Cheese ‘ kids say ‘everybody freeze’ pretty cheesy I know!! Or ‘all set’ kids say ‘you Bet’. There are tons of them online! Good luck hope this helps!

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      Jacqueline Hinds - October 15, 2016

      Oh I like the macaroni and cheese! I say class reset and they sit straight with hands folded and mouths quiet. You are right the call and response gets their attention on you and focusing back on learning. In addition I will speed up the learning pace in the classroom. It sends a sense of urgency and they will quiet down to keep up. Complimenting the children who are showing you correct behavior straightens everyone! I was like that my first year also but I stayed in prayer and researched a lot of strategies and tried them. You will figure it out just keep trying and figure out what you will do to keep from yelling.

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    Anonymous - September 19, 2015

    Read Magic 123 for help with classroom management. Please do not yell.

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    Nancy - September 26, 2015

    Practice with the kiddos what you expect. Model and acknowledge when you see the correct behaviors. I am an elements teacher.

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    June - October 28, 2015

    SING! Put whatever it is you need to get across into a goofy doesn’t have to make a splash as art song and sing it to them. I even had a recalcitrant herd of middle schoolers mind when I sang. They said if I promised not to sing again they would mind. Immediately there after when they started stepping out of line I would ramp up the humming and they would quit. It turns anger into funny but gets the point across and makes you a hero not the out of control teacher. Or they think you nuts- whatever it takes ;).

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      MiriamP62 - December 24, 2015

      I love this idea! I’d turn angry into funny any day. Thanks for sharing

      Reply
    Jaclyn - October 29, 2015

    Hopefully this yeAr is going much better. It wasn’t until someone told me to treat the kids as if they were my own did I stop yelling. Instead, I hold them to high expectations and instead of making it class knowledge that they are doing something wrong or annoying, I keep the ball in my court and address it privately after class, just as I would my own kids. 🙂

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    Krystal arthur - August 6, 2016

    Make sure you have an insentive/ reward system. I give out tickets and kids put their name on them and i do a drawing every week for a prize. This seems to motivate them….i am still working on how to transition to intrinsically rewarding themselves.

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    Elizabeth W. - September 16, 2016

    Lower your voice and speak slower. It grabs their attention.

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Laura Vela - October 21, 2014

Hello Linda, thank you very much for all you send to me. I would like to know how can I get the books you wrote.

Reply
Laura Vela - October 21, 2014

Hello Linda, thank you very much for all you send to me. I would like to know how can I get the books you wrote.

Reply
Laura Vela - December 26, 2014

Hello Linda, thank you very much for all you send to me. I would like to know how can I get the books you wrote.

Reply
sheard - September 15, 2015

I bought a service bell like the ones on the desk at a hotel counter. It really helps me when I feel the need to yell. I just ring it (several times if Im stressed) and all my students put their hands up. I dont give directions until all kids hands are up.

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    Sandy - October 13, 2015

    I do this also. It saves my voice and the students respond very positively to it. Every teacher should have a bell.

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Nancy - September 26, 2015

We have 5 peas in a pod. Planned procedures prevent poor performance. Teach your procedures / expectations in mini lessons the first month of school. Have kiddos show what it looks like .

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Anonymous - November 14, 2015

I’m pinning this so I can pass it on to the Junior teachers I have in my department. Sometimes, as a senior staff member, we forget to pass on the basics to those who will take over from us.

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Steve - November 17, 2015

This is very obviously written by someone who has not been teaching for a long time… 19 years in the classroom for me… you’ll learn someday that #’s 3 and 7 are not true at all…

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    Linda Kardamis - November 18, 2015

    Let me clarify what I mean.
    #3: You’re right that sometimes you shouldn’t sweat the small things. But what I mean is that if you let all the little issues go at the start of the year, soon little problems become big problems. This is especially true for newer teachers or those who aren’t confident in their classroom management skills – because students take advantage.
    #7: What I mean is that you should never stop learning & growing. You should never think “I’ve arrived as a teacher. I don’t need to change and improve anymore.” That’s where you start going backwards & lose effectiveness. But you’re right that there is also a danger in feeling as if you’re never doing enough WORK and that you should always do more THINGS. That’s not what I mean at all. You need to have balance and know when to say “I’ve done enough. This lesson is good enough. This visual is good enough.” etc. But we shouldn’t get to the point that we think we’re just good to go on all fronts – that we’ve put in our time and now we can stop growing.

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      Anonymous - January 28, 2016

      This is a little off topic, but I was reading through these comments, and I just wanted to say “kudos” for how professional you were in clarifying what you meant, especially after such a rude comment.

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    Anonymous - December 27, 2015

    I have to disagree with Steve. 7 is so true and it is the ones who have been teaching a long time who don’t understand. We are teaching a different type of student now than we were 20 years ago…even 10 years ago. If we don’t change with the students, then they do not learn.

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      Anonymous - January 15, 2016

      I agree. I work with a teacher that constantly brings up how she’s taught 18 years and there’s nothing wrong with her teaching. She still uses the same activities/teaching strategies that she used when I started at the school 11 years ago. She complains about making changes all the time. It is difficult working with someone so set in their ways.

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    Fie - October 8, 2016

    26 years in a class room and I think she’s right! We have a profession that makes us need to adapt constantly. We will always progress! What a great chance! Never bored!

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Brooke Holland - December 12, 2015

Thanks for the reminder that the big things are the little things! And for urging us to daily be the best teachers we can be.
I reposted your article on my website at learningbythebrooke.com.

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Erica - December 13, 2015

I agree with all of these with the exception of No. 7. Sometimes, even our best efforts will merely be, “good enough,” especially if you’re like me and in your first year teaching. There is literally no end to the amount of strategies, activities or new ways of teaching we might find to teach something in a “better” way, however, we owe it to ourselves to honor our limitations and personal time. Sometimes, done is better than perfect and “good enough” is simply that – good enough.

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kay - December 18, 2015

Hello fellow teachers,

just wanted to reflect on the yelling issue as it has been a bad habit of mine and I successfully got rid of it recently. First, I stopped talking completely and waited until everyone got quiet and used this time to observe the students, this worked most of the time but I wanted something better/more fun.

Since then I have found a better solution and that is “the give me 5” method which I read on some blog not long ago and it works like a charm.
Basically I told students that I want them to do 5 things when they hear me saying give me .
1. sit/stand straight
2. arms crossed
3. ears and eyes open
4. face the board/teacher
5. mouth closed

I suggest trying this technique and give your vocal cords a break.

smiles
k

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Anonymous - December 20, 2015

Hi, I’m a new teacher, working as a sub now, and I have struggled with yelling. I know it’s terrible and I try not to but my students just refuse to listen or follow directions if I don’t. Waiting until they quite down doesn’t work and I think I’ve tried every single attention grabbing trick out there and the result is still the same. The only thing I haven’t done is bribe them with money. Its becoming a challenge everyday and I fee like I’m the only sub that doesn’t get any work done. Should I reconsider teaching?

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    Linda Kardamis - December 21, 2015

    No it doesn’t mean that at all. It just means you need to learn some new classroom management techniques. (You can start with the classroom management tab in the menu). The great thing about subbing is you get lots of fresh starts and lots of chances to try out new ideas.

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Anonymous - January 11, 2016

Most of your points make sense and I agree about the not yelling. However, I’m on the opposite side of your justification of being prepared. It was not acknowledged that there will be many and I mean many days where your whole lesson goes out the window due to a school event, project, and other circumstances that interrrupt your plans. I don’t feel this applies to Special Ed where these change of circumstances come into play so much. I try to prepare, but so many things just interrupt my plans. Honestly, I’d say be prepared for change and there are many times you just have to wing it. Yeah it seems ineffective, but lets be realistic, not everything will go as you have planned.

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Sandra - January 23, 2016

I am a new teacher who has been teaching 7th grade ELA since Dec 9th in an inner city middle school. Stasting from my first day I have been cursed out, disrespected every day with name calling such as “dirty –tch,” “ugly –tch,” “fat –tch, and “skinny –tch.” When I ask the kids to do something, they usually respond with “F–k you I can do what I want!” They refuse to leave the room when asked to do so after disrupting the class. I have implemented the suggested classroom management plan and it helps a little and sometimes but I find that I must still yell in order to get the attention of either the class itself or some particular student. You are right. It rarely works. I teach 4 one hour blocks cevery day. Each block except the first, consists of 28 students 14 of whom receive special education services. On two occasions recently, a student has cried when I yelled her. This has hurt me to my heart and made me want to reconsider teaching as a profession, but I honestly cannot think of anything else I’don’t rather be doing. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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rajan - February 2, 2016

Thanks for these tips. I really dont want to go to class today because all of these apply to me. I need to work on improving and sharing stories with other teachers is probably the best comfort.

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Amber Mohsin - February 4, 2016

How to deal with the kids who are indifferent in class no matter how interesting the lessons are they work out with other students more rather than this bunch…..

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Kathryn Flesher - February 6, 2016

Sandra,
You are drowning. I felt exactly thr same way my first year in an urban school. First have a long talk with whichever special education teacher you feel most comfortable with. Maybe after school, someplace relaxing You should be getting more assistance from their department. Second, find a mentor teacher. Third, take a weekend off . No planning, no grading, relax and have fun. You need a chance to recharge. Don’t give up the kids need you.

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Bruce - February 28, 2016

I do agree wholeheartedly with number 7. Really great teachers are mostly those who’ve been teaching for some years and as junior teachers were constantly looking to be better. Better at engaging their students, better at getting their message across, better at speaking the language of learning. The really, really great teachers are those who continue this search through their careers and are still looking for new ways to engage, new ways to interact, while using their extensive learnt knowledge of “what not to do”.
I disagree with number 3.
If you are constantly addressing the small things you are:
a) only engaging with one student while the others are disengaged (causing you to spend time re-engaging them)
b) not ignoring attention seeking behavior, which is the best course of action.
c) nagging (boys especially cant cope with this… and you will surely have them switching off to everything you say by doing this)

I think a number 8 could be “Talk too much”.
Many teachers think that they have to fill any silence with their voice. Very counter productive.

Thanks for the thought provoking post

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    Anonymous - March 14, 2016

    A very wise comment. ‘c) nagging (boys especially cant cope with this… and you will surely have them switching off to everything you say by doing this)’

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NT Maria - April 19, 2016

Thank you for your post. Another bad habit is making idle threats that you have no way or intention of doing. Once you do this you will lose the control of your class and the respect of your students. Follow your classroom management plan, do what you say you will do, demonstrate respect, and be fair. The students will notice. They won’t be perfect, there will be problems, but they will know where you stand and what you expect and respect you for it.

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Connie Hamlin - May 1, 2016

#3 on whether to address the little things or not, as a veteran teacher of 40 years, I have come to realize over the years that you do need address even the little things, but you do NOT need to make it a big deal. Consistency is key and just by having the child correc the rule broken or quickly getting their attention to correct the problem that may seem little, will let the students know you are consistent in what you want. Practice at the beginning of school for weeks and making the routines habits is the way to manage the classroom. Read the books and see the videos by Harry Wong. His little tips and routines really are great!

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DeBorah K. - September 15, 2016

Thank you Linda for all you do especially for new teachers. Thank you for sharing your strategies for managing a classroom to promote effective teaching and learning.

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Ruci Tukama - September 22, 2016

When you are called to teach, you have God given authority to speak the truth to the students. I thank you Linda for your views.

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Anna - October 28, 2016

I appreciate your help and look forward to learning more. I am a veteran teacher and don’t realize some methods, both in teaching and management, don’t have the same effect that they did before.

Thank you!

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Roz MAnly - July 9, 2017

HI Linda, I thought I would share this with you as it relates to one of your comments about teaching. My daughter graduated a Cert V in Patissiere and the guest speaker was not a traditional educationalist, but the recognised ‘Best Chocolatier in the Southern Hemisphere”. He spoke of his experiences in going from being a young man of 16 leaving school to learn to make pastries to getting his dream job in a quality Chocolatiere in France, to opening his own company and winning international awards. He made this comment: that when ever he started to believe he was a ‘someone’, he stopped learning. His advice to the graduates was never stop learning, and never believe that all they know is all there is to be learnt. Wise words that struck a nerve in me and I try to hold onto when I get annoyed with a petty task that takes me away from the classroom!

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Janice - July 10, 2017

I LOVE what you wrote about God’s calling and staying in prayer. Also the practical tips about being prepared etc. Thank you!

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