|By Terabass (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons|
Dear First Year Teacher Me,
As you are reading this letter I know you are sitting in your desk very early in the morning getting ready for the school day to start. You are staring at a blank sheet of paper because you have no idea what to teach because you never truly had a mentor to help get you going. Well, look no further, your mentor is here and I plan on clearing up a few things you never learned in college.
First, there is no such thing as controlling a class. Yes, you took that classroom management class where they taught you about Glasser, Piaget, and even some Skinner. You even put together a nice binder for a final project where you made a nice cover page and had appendixes of nice rules and consequences. Well, I have news for you; you cannot and will not ever control a kid. When a kid says, “make me”, you need to understand that you can’t. Rather than focusing on controlling the kids in your class you need to build relationships built on honestly and respect.
Next, content is not king. In fact, it is not even heir to the throne in your room. Very few of the classes you took in college will have a direct connection to the content you are teaching in your classroom. In some cases, you will be learning right along with your kids and that’s ok. You don’t need to be the expert and being honest with the kids will go a long way in building positive relationships. Despite what talking heads and politicians will like you to believe, the content crazy culture of standardized testing is not good teaching. Don’t teach to the test. Period.
Another piece of wisdom I would like to impart on you is to surround yourself with positive role models and peers. They will be there when you fall flat on your face and fail and also be there to put you in your place when you start to think you have all the answers.
As your first parent teacher conference comes up, you will no doubt be nervous and bit uneasy. You will think of parents as someone you need to justify your job to or in some cases as the “enemy”. Neither of those thoughts are true. Be open, honest, and find ways to build a positiverelationship with parents. I would suggest you send home a minimum of five positive calls/emails/notes a week. Parents love this and it is a nice way to end the week focusing on something positive.
You will get roped into boring meetings and training sessions that will suck the very life out of you…sorry, haven’t figured this one out yet. J
Many ideas you had about schools due to your own experiences are not necessarily right in today’s classrooms. Here are a few things I know you will be tempted to do because you know no better:
- Hand out detentions – While discipline in extreme cases is warranted, I urge you to build relationships first built on trust and respect rather than fear and punishment.
- Grade everything a kid does – Not everything a student turns in or does in class needs to be graded. Athletes are only “graded” on game day…apply that to your classroom.
- Kick a kid out of class – With the exception of extreme cases this should never, ever be done.
- Eat the “Double Spirit Burger” in the school cafeteria – Just trust me on this one and don’t do it.
Before you do anything on this list just ask yourself the question, “how would I react if I was a parent of one of the kids in my class?” I’ve got news for you; you will have a couple of sons who will test many of your beliefs on education when they start school. There are many more things I will need to pass on but I will save that for another time. Just remember that you are a mediocre teacher at best…but there is hope for you. Never think you have it all figured out and always try to make each year better than the previous. The moment you think you have all the answers and that you are done improving, it will be time for you to head over to a new profession. Surround yourself with educators better than you and learn everything you can from them. Be a sponge and always remember that every single decision you make must be centered on the kids in your class. If not, don’t do it.
- Give extra credit for tissue boxes – Always make sure a student’s grade reflect their learning…not their behavior.
PS: Join Twitter and start a blog…