- What a Teacher Wants: One Teacher’s View - March 25, 2018
- Artist is Not a Dirty Word - March 18, 2018
- The Death of Reflection in English/Language Arts Classrooms - March 9, 2018
- More Than A Teacher - March 4, 2018
- Real Teaching Resolutions - January 5, 2017
- 23 Times I have Questioned My Sanity While Teaching - September 7, 2016
- Part 3: Adventures in Real Word English/Language Arts – Let Them Be Great - August 23, 2016
- Part 2: Adventures in Real World English/Language Arts: Making Them Care - August 4, 2016
- New School Year Advice from a Ten Year Teacher - August 1, 2016
- Adventures in Real World English/Language Arts: The Planning Stages - July 18, 2016
Next week, I will celebrate the beginning of my tenth year in education. Teaching is a career that is always changing. One can never get too comfortable because before you know it there is something new. New standards, new strategies, or a new curriculum. One thing that never changes are the kids. The students are the reason I have stayed. No matter how many meetings I attend or how many times the state changes the standards or whatever else, the kids are the best part of our job, and we sometimes forget how much we love our careers when we are surrounded by the paperwork, data analysis, and seemingly endless meetings. Remember it is about our kids. Now that being said love for children is not a hundred percent guarantee that you will stay in education ten, twenty, or even thirty years, but here are some things I have learned from my ten years in the classroom. I hope even just one makes your year better or great.
1. Do your lesson plans. (I’m not talking about just copying and pasting them over from last year- really look at them.) Read over them and refresh your memory. I’ve tried just to copy and paste my plans because I thought I had done this a hundred times before, but those lessons seem always to fall apart so be prepared, even if you have done the lesson forty times before. Make notes on them after about what worked and what didn’t. Write the questions you asked during class on them. Type them up and there you have it- questions you don’t have to think up on the spot.
2. Organize yourself. “Much madness is divinest sense” (Emily Dickinson). I am a type B personality. There is chaos all over my classroom, but I know where everything is. Some teachers love folders and filing cabinets. I prefer piles and bins. You have to decide what works for you. It is your classroom. You cannot force something that isn’t there. I have tried to be type A and at the end of the week, I returned to my madness. If you are type A, great! Do not let anyone make you feel bad about your nature. You have to function in your environment. Do whatever works for you and it may take years before you learn how to organize the paperwork, student work, and lesson plans, but this is my system so if you want to steal and adapt it go for it.
a. Binder One. A section for attendance, a section for my grade book, a section for accommodations and SPED, and Parent contact information and documentation.
b. Binder Two. Lesson Plans. A section for each class I teach. I leave them on my desk for any visitors that come by and want to see them.
c. Binder Three. Important papers. A section for department meeting handouts, a section for school-wide handouts, a section for district handouts, and a section for statewide handouts.
d. The turn it in place. Have a place for the kids to turn in work. I NEVER let them hand me anything. They have to put it in the bin because I know myself. I will put it somewhere, and it will never be found again. I have done buckets and trays. I prefer the trays because I can stack them as a space saver.
e. Student Stuff area. I have a place for my students to sharpen, staple or hole punch. I have extra paper, pens, highlighters, etc. in that area. Some teachers disagree with the extra supply area, but it is a battle I am no longer willing to fight. If you are willing to, go for it. I really just don’t have the time or the energy to fight over the lack of preparation when my obsession with extra school supplies can be put to use.
f. The board calendar changed my life. I made an entire month calendar on my white board. (Mine isn’t beautiful, but it functions). I put upcoming events, due dates, and tests. It is more for me than for the kids. I have three different markers, one for each of my classes, so they know what is going on almost a month in advance. This way I can see where I am going, and they know what is coming up. It is easy to change, and I see no harm in letting to see my crazy mind at work.
3. Co-worker relationships. I have trouble making friends, not because I am a difficult person to get along with, but I am an introvert. I have no trouble making a fool of myself for teenagers, but when it comes to interacting with adults, I’m socially awkward. And for whatever reason, sometimes we feel like we are back in high school when working with other teachers which is ridiculous, however, here are a few things to keep in mind.
a. Treat others how you want to be treated. Do not do anything that you would not want to be done to you. Do not talk about another person’s failures. Remember you have many. Celebrate good things, and comfort for bad things. Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear, especially in the teacher’s lounge.
b. There are some teachers that just seem obsessed with climbing. Just remember we are here for our kids, not show off how great we are to make other teachers feel bad or look bad. It is one thing to share ideas and help others. It is another to thing that your way is the only way there is to do something. We are all in this together, help others grow, and you will shine because you are good at your career. You don’t have to walk over people or put others down so show it.
c. Find your support system. You need three people in your career: A teaching BFF someone to get you coffee, laugh with or cry to, A mentor teacher someone with more experience and is willing to offer advice for tricky situations, a mentee, someone you can help grow as a teacher when you are ready.
4. Know Thyself. Know who you are and be proud of yourself. You are helping the future grow, and you are making a difference in the lives of thirty to a hundred students a year! Some people never do that in a lifetime. Be proud to be a teacher, but know yourself. Things to keep in mind.
a. If it is too much, say no. If you are overwhelmed, do not take on the after-school tutoring. People will use you as far as you are willing to go. This includes students, parents, and coworkers. You have to put yourself first.
b. If you are good at something, share it. If you know that you are great at reading strategies, share it! It will build your confidence. I always feel like I am about to pass out before I present, but I feel like a million bucks after because I helped other teachers.
c. Take the evening off. It’s okay to have a do nothing evening. You have to sometimes. Don’t feel guilty. Trust those kids wrote those papers two hours before they were due, they can wait another day for you to grade them.
d. Do non-school things. Find a hobby that relaxes you. Separate yourself. You are not just a teacher. You are a friend, a parent, a child, a spouse, a dancer, a knitter, a jeep enthusiast, or the millions of other things we love. Be that in addition to a teacher because you have to take care of you to be your best for them.
When it comes to learning from experiences, there is so much to say and not enough room to say it in. I admire all my coworkers so much. They inspire me every day. I hope the new school year is full of ah-ha! moments and full of laughter. I hope you reach the student that has struggled with math his entire life and you show him a new way to success. I hope you remember yourself and take care of you. I beg you not to self-sabotage. Know that you are good at what you do, never let anyone make you feel that you are not, be willing to grow, treat others (including your students) how you want to be treated, and remember, we have the best job in the world. Have a wonderful year!