How Benjamin Franklin can get you out of a Teacher slump.


Benjamin Franklin, is a name most adults recognise. I’m sure everyone in the US could tell you a thing or two about his life.

Outside of the US, we might recognise him as one of the Founding Fathers of the United States: a noted scientist, diplomat, inventor and writer.

I first bumped into Benjamin Franklin, so to speak, when I read about him in a wonderfully motivating Sales book by Frank Bettger.

Frank Bettger modelled his self improvement on the system created by Benjamin Franklin as outlined in his enjoyable and readable autobiography.

Teachers could learn a thing or two from him.

We all get into slumps, troughs, even quagmires. Whatever the reason, when we do get into one, it impacts upon our effectiveness as teachers. We lack motivation and fail to inspire our students.

One way that is sure to put the zest back into your teaching and everyday life is to use a self improvement plan.

Franklin’s system, like all of the best plans, is wonderfully simple. He chose thirteen virtues that he wished to work upon and worked on one of them each week.

In doing so, in four thirteen week cycles, he would cover each virtue four times in a year.

Franklin choose the following thirteen virtues, with his definitions, which he found were necessary for him to become a better human being.

  1. Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  2. Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  3. Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  4. Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  5. Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
  6. Industry. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  7. Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
  8. Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  9. Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  10. Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
  11. Tranquillity. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  12. Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
  13. Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Leaving all other things to providence, Franklin would concentrate all his efforts on one particular area which he wanted to improve for one whole week.

On his evening reflection; what Catholics might call an examination of conscience, he gave a black mark in his notebook for each time he erred in his goal to be more virtuous.


As time passed he noted less marks on his page as he became a better and more virtuous person.

Franklin note in his autobiography that he never reached perfection but in the effort to become a virtuous person, he was sure that he was much the better for it.

Teachers, or anybody else for that matter, can use such a system to re-energise themselves.

As you may have guessed by now, the system is completely adaptable and any list of virtues can be chosen to work on.

In fact, Frank Bettger, who I mentioned above, used the system to work upon technical aspects of his job that he needed to improve. His particular list looked like this…

#1 – Enthusiasm
If you don’t FEEL enthusiastic, ACT enthusiastic. Soon, you’ll BE enthusiastic. Double your enthusiasm and you’ll probably double your income.

#2 – Order (self-organization)
Set aside time to plan how you will spend your time. Think about what’s most important. Then do those things first.

#3 – Think in terms of others’ interests
Find out what your prospect wants. Show him or her how to get it.

#4 – Questions
Questions get you further than comments. Let your prospect talk while you discover his or her wants.

#5 – Key issue
Find the prospect’s basic need or main interest. Then focus solely on it! Ask “why” and “in addition to that” to discover the key issue.

#6 – Silence (listen)
Good listening works magic in selling. Listen intently intentionally!

#7 – Sincerity (deserve confidence)
If you don’t believe in what you’re selling, neither will your prospect. Give your prospect the service you would want.

#8 – Knowledge of my business
Keep your mind young by continuing to learn about your business.

#9 – Appreciation and praise
Show people you believe in them and expect great things. Don’t go overboard – just give them your honest appraisal.

#10 – Smile (happiness)
Smile your best smile at everyone you see. Think about all the things you have to be thankful for … and smile. The world will smile with you.

#11 – Remember names and faces
Take a mental photograph of the person’s name. Repeat it immediately in the conversation and then silently to yourself. Associate his or her name and profession.

#12 – Service and prospecting
Take care of them and they will take care of you. Follow-up on all leads immediately.
Set up for your next contact on this contact.

#13 – Closing the sale (action)
Proceed through the sales process – Attention, Interest, Desire, Close. Conclude your presentation with the magical question, “How do you like it?” Welcome objections. Don’t be afraid to ask for the money.

As you can see, Bettger’s focus was on selling and providing an honest service.

Without too much tweaking, even his list would work wonders for the average person in improving their practice.

Now apply this to your own situation: specifically teaching. What areas would you focus upon to drag yourself out of the pedagogical doldrums and into a teaching tailwind?

Here is one such example…

  1. Behaviour Management
  2. Lesson planning
  3. Recording student behaviours.
  4. Being positive in class.
  5. Subject knowledge.
  6. Questioning techniques.
  7. Communicating with parents.
  8. National curriculum knowledge.
  9. Teacher diary.
  10. Filing student work.
  11. Collegiality.
  12. Integrating the Faith.
  13. Classroom observations.

As you can see, all of those areas are important and devoting at least one week per cycle to that area, leaving all other areas to chance, can only improve our prospects as teachers.

One super easy way to get the ball rolling on your own plan is to take five minutes today and write down those thirteen virtues or areas of practice that you want to work on.

Having done that, take a small index card for each of the 13 areas and write the Title and Definition e.g.

  1. Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.

Now carry just one card around with you for its chosen week to remind you of what you are working on. Visual reminders are great.

The blank modifiable chart can be easily printed off from the internet or you can make your own.

And it’s as easy as that. This system is guaranteed to not only make you a more virtuous person but a more effective teacher too. Protection Status

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