Teach Smarter, Not Harder

Teach Smarter, Not Harder:
Building A Sound Foundation for a Successful Career
by Sharon Ryback

The following is an excerpt from the book:

Your Teaching Style

Over the years every teacher develops his or her own particular teaching style. During the first years of teaching you will begin to formulate your "type" of teaching. Here are examples.

These teachers are on the move. In general they are people who like movement and learn best when they are actively engaged, so they build that type of classroom for their children. The classroom may be filled with centers and the children may have opportunities to move freely about the classroom. This type of teacher may use movement as a transition between subjects and will be out on the playground jumping rope with the student They are generally people who are athletic and enjoy sports. This type of teacher will frequently reward students with pats on the back and physical reinforcement.

If you are a kinesthetic teacher, your principal and staff may wonder about the noise coming from your classroom. Movement always equals noise. Quality activities that create learning and teaching noise is good noise. Learn to listen and WATCH the type of noise being created.

The VISUAL Teacher
Have you ever walked into a classroom that is on visual overdose? There are so many things hanging from the ceiling that it looks like a second grade jungle. This is probably visual teacher who took it one step too far. Visual teachers provide an environment visual attractions for children. Every lesson is accompanied by some sort of picture, chart, chart, picture book, etc. Visual teachers will frequently use the word look.

The AUDITORY Teacher
The auditory teacher will have a classroom that is filled with noise or void of noise. Auditory teachers may like classical music playing in the background or like a quiet classroom where children work in relative silence. These teachers are either attracted or distracted by noise of any kind. They may have listening centers throughout the room and encourage children to work in discussion groups. Auditory teachers frequently use the word listen.

The CLUTTER Teacher
If the stuff piled up on the top of the piano ever avalanched, the clutter teachers could significantly decrease their class size. Some teachers are messy teachers. Their rooms lack neatness and yet they can always put their hands on something with amazing speed. Having a messy room or a clean room has little, if no reflection on a teacher’s ability to teach children. I’ve been in cluttered rooms with wonderful teachers and neat rooms with not so wonderful teachers and vice versa. Of course the mess should be controlled and should not be a distraction to the children’s learning, but some clutter is to be expected.

The NEAT Teacher
If all the children have their boxes of crayons with the colors in rainbow order, beware. Some teachers feel a need to keep the room looking neat which creates a sterile looking classroom. The classroom should have a place for everything and everything in its place. but it should also have some clutter and look like children exist within the four walls Children make messes, spill paint and leave trails of paper. A room should have order but no obsessive order.

The FUN Teacher
Some teachers are fun teachers. They have always got some wild, fun activities going on in their classrooms. The newspaper reporters and the TV cameras are frequently stopping to marvel at what they will think of next. All of the fun activities are great for children and community relations are very important. Caution: If you’re a fun teacher, make sure your fun has clear objectives and expected outcomes. Don’t let the excitement of the project lose its teaching value along the way.

The PASSIVE Teacher
Nothing too much happens in the passive teacher’s classroom. He/She may have tried those new ideas once and found they didn’t work. They keep changing the textbook every few years which means the lesson plans need to be redone again. Teaching is a job. The bulletin boards are the same every year and the children all sort of run together. The children learn, the year passes with a countdown of the number of days that remain.

All Rolled in to One
Each teacher at any particular moment is a part of each of the "teacher types" listed. … Don’t compare your classroom with those of other teachers. They are on another trip with different passengers. Your trip is unique to the individuals you have been entrusted to teach.

Contents of Teach Smarter, Not Harder

I. The Parts and Pieces of Being a Teacher

Your Teaching Style

All Rolled into One

Developing Your Teacher Voice

Other Teachers as Role Models


Children Will Respond to Our Faces...

Take Care of Yourself

Ignorance Is Bliss

Lounge Lizards and Other Dangerous Animals

Surviving School Lunches

Taking Work Home

II. Creating Your Room Environment

Where Do I Start?

Classroom Space/Take an Outsider’s View

I Like This Classroom

Start a Collection/Become Experts

Bulletin Boards, Commercial Material and Children’s Work

III. Before You Meet the Students

Overview the Curriculum

Pacing Your Year

What Are Your Goals?

Setting the Stage/Paper—Paper-—Paper-—Paper----Paper

IV.  The Art of Instruction

Teaching and Facilitating

Should We Teach the Child or the Curriculum or Both?

Concrete Through Abstract Instruction

V.   Powerful Instructional Techniques

The Importance of In-depth Instruction

Learning Is a Social Experience

Making Choices/The Prison System

Building on Decision Making Through Choice/What If Children Make Inappropriate Choices?

Success and Celebration

Success and Struggle

Teaching Is Risky Business and If It Isn’t, It Ought to Be

VI.  Firsts in Your Life as a Teacher

First Fire Drills and Other States of Emergency

First Open House

First Sick Child

First Field Trip

First Formal Observation

First Party

First Parent-Teacher Conference

First Upset Parent

VII. The Real Nitty Gritty of Teaching

Empower Children To...

Giving Directions



Hand Raising/Clean Desks

VIII. Grades, Grades and More Grades

Grades, Grades, Grades, Grades

Tacit Knowledge

I’m a Good Person Even If I Don’t Get Good Grades

IX. Accountability

Being a Diagnostician

How Do We Measure Success in Children?

How Do We Measure Our Success as Teachers?

X. You and Your Students

The Issue of Respect


Children Are Not Interested in Being Your Press Agent

Stuff for Kids of Any Age

Sexist Roles in Your Classroom/Ladies and Gentlemen

Please Read/Being a Storyteller

Indoor Recess/Games Made by Children

Fads and Kids

What’s Taught Is Not Always What’s Caught

Feeling Successful at Every Level/Working at Your Own Pace

Pull-Out Programs/Is It Time?

Working with High-Risk Students

Working with Talented Students


Making Mistakes

Home Visits


Completion = Celebration/Viewfinders/Sand Escape

Everyone Is a Winner/Let Students Compete Against Themselves/Student of the Day/Pride Wall

Affective Elements That Make a Classroom a Safe and Happy Place

XI. You and the Structure of Schools

The School Culture

Serving on School Committees


Understanding Your School Administration

You and Your Principal

Principal Visitation

You and Your School Janitor

You and Your Building Specialists

You and Your Room Mothers

You and Your School Secretary

You and Your School Cleaning Staff

XII. In Conclusion

Teach Smarter, Not Harder

How To Thrive And Survive In The Classroom

Guide To Getting A Teaching Job

ETeach: A Teacher Resource. A Teacher Resource For Learning The Strategies Of Master Teachers.