Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What Veteran Teachers Wished They Had Known Before They Started

It's okay to be worried or nervous going into the first day of school, especially if you're a brand new teacher. Yet even those of us who have been in the classroom for years still get anxious and may even overlook some of the wisdom we've accumulated from time to time. Knowing this was a question on the mind of many young teachers, I reached out to my experienced friends and colleagues for their advice. I asked them to answer this question as succinctly as possible:

What's the one thing you wish someone had told you before your started your first full-time teaching job?

Here's what they had to say:
  • The most important things you'll teach your kids won't come from a textbook.
  • About special ed students...mods...IEP meetings...laws ...etc....
  • Make classroom management your top priority (because you can't teach and they won't learn if you don't have control of your classroom).
  • Be humble. You may have fantastic ideas, but you won't have a shot of working with others at your school to make them happen if you come across as a newbie know-it-all.
  • Growth is not just measured with numbers.
  • Be proactive, not reactive.
  • Take some time and watch everything that is going on around you. Once you figure out who they are, seek out that successful veteran teachers at your school and ask them for help.
  • Every student deserves an IEP.
  • Everything you think, say or do matters. Everything.
  • Treat your students like they are your own flesh and blood.
  • Remember that your kids are people, not machines. And remember that you are, too.
  • Remember to take some time for yourself, it will be appreciated by you, your friends, and your students.
  • Your students may not always listen, but they SEE everything--actions often speak louder than words.
  • Engage and utilize the resources around you. Other teachers... anyone who you can share your vision with. No one ever said you had to be the change you want to see solo.
  • If you're miserable, find anyone--significant other, roomie, advisor, shrink--who can help you take hold of your situation.
I know most of these revelations focus on big ideas, but that should be a lesson in and of itself: the big ideas are the ones that will shape your approach to everything you do, and hopefully set you up for success.

Experienced teachers, please share your tweet-sized answer in the comments so we can make these an even more valuable resource.

5 comments:

Mark Barnes said...

Excellent post, Tom. As I have a niece beginning her career this year, I pay more attention to this stuff than ever.

I would add to the list: Understand the politics of education. You'll want a lot of things that make sense to you that you'll never get, because they don't make sense to administration for some strange reason.

halpey1 said...

Great list. Thanks for sharing... I'd add: Find the joy in teaching. Remember to laugh and have fun... teaching the joy of learning and becoming a life long learner.

Mr. Neibauer said...

Get to know 4 people in your building right away: 1. Office Manager; 2. Lunch Lady; 3. Building Engineer; 4. Librarian

These people shape how an elementary school is run. If you are in good with these people, your job will be a whole lot easier...both inside and outside of the classroom.

Katie said...

Great list! I have one year of school left before I get my teaching degree, and I've seen a few lists like this. Excellent tips!

Minnesota Rocks! said...

The classroom is your stage! Sometimes as I teacher, I feel more like a stand-up act and my students are my audience! Students learn best when they are having fun!