Things I have learned

December 1st, 2007 by Brian Leave a reply »

If I wrote a book for new teachers, this would be in the intro.

Things that I’ve learned since my first contract year:

  1. Be friendly to the custodians. You never know when something/someone is going to be locked in somewhere else.
  2. Be even friendlier to the secretaries. They talk up in the office. They are also the ones to process paperwork.
  3. Get a support system at school so that when you come home your spouse isn’t overwhelmed. My first year I would want to work through every single problem that I had that day when I got home with my wife. There’s not much she could do but be supportive (but it was a lot of ‘take’ on my end of things and not much ‘give’). When I got home it was now a feeling of “Ahh. Rest from the crazies. Let’s see what reality is like.”
  4. Help out the counselors. Always show them your professionalism and they will be professional in helping you. (Even if they say it’s a computer that sets up your class schedules, I’m pretty sure they have some say in who goes in which class.)
  5. Take on some of the students that have been labeled ‘trouble’. Take them in moderation and try to suggest which hours/classroom climates would work best for which students. If the general attitude of the class is enjoying learning, new students will be more likely to want to join in the fun. (It may take some scaffolding.)
  6. Never tell a class that they’re your worst class (or even that they’re a trouble class). You can say that professional attitudes need to be developed, you can say that respect needs to be demonstrated, but once you label them, they will own that class identity. (And then brag about it in other classes and to other teachers.)
  7. Junior highers already think that teachers are out to get them and don’t like them. Show them otherwise.
  8. You can care without being motherly. A fair and equitable teacher who values each student’s voice and demands the same from the class will win out over a “friend” teacher.
  9. You don’t give your friends detentions.
  10. No matter what, you will always be cooler than your students. You graduated college; they haven’t. You have a career; they don’t. But you will be changed by your students.
  11. Figure out how to work with your administrators and to see what they value and what they’re good at.
  12. There are some teachers that share lessons because they want to help. There are others who talk about what is going on in class because they are proud/excited. And then there are those who are worried about what other people think and want to show that they teach as well.
  13. Just as there are different personalities in the world, there are different styles to teaching. Just as there are different styles, there are different ways to assess learning.
  14. Just because students are quiet doesn’t mean they are learning. If students are too loud, though, they’re probably taking away from someone else’s learning. You are in control of the classroom environment. Not the students, not the other teachers in the department, not the parents. They influence, but you have the final say.
  15. We change lives for a living. Sure, you could make more money selling appliances, but tell me three things that impacted you about the person who sold you your refrigerator.
  16. Take things ‘step by step’. There are many things that will get thrown in your face. Figure out which is your highest priority.
  17. Pass on the ‘step by step’ philosophy to your class. I’ve taught special education/developmental students and I’ve taught honors students. Both groups need to learn how to break down seemingly impossible tasks into smaller chunks. You can’t down a monster burger in one bite, but when you finish those steps…awesomeness.
  18. Choose three things that you want your students to walk away with at the end of the year. Always come back to these three and filter the majority of your activities through these. (Mine were: to develop an enjoyment of reading, to become more professionally caring students, and to be able to write a good thesis statement)

These can all be summed up by this:

Teach how you want to be taught.

Remember this and everything else will come.


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