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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What advice I have for new teachers.

My student teacher from last year was fortunate enough to find a job last year. At the beginning of the year she was super excited about starting out. She had a fantastic classroom with every imaginable piece of lab equipment. I joked with her that maybe we should trade places. I saw her this week-end and she has been pretty much beaten down by her students. Ah the joys of being a first-year teacher.

You always hear experienced teachers tell new incoming teachers "not to smile until Thanksgiving". I think that is a load of crap. I think that sets up a teacher vs. student mentality that does no one a bit of good. You can't be a push-over, but you must remain approachable. You must show your students that you care about them and what happens to them. You aren't their friend, but you are friendly.

My school's policy is that electronic communication devices are forbidden and should not be used. I disagree. I think that the new smartphones are amazing devices that allow students to have a real-world connection to what we are doing in class. Why buy new stopwatches? The kids have them in their pockets. Class set of calculators? Nope. Kids have them in your pocket. Need to google a fact or conversion factor? Why wait 5 minutes for the ancient laptops to fire up..? They have it instantaneously in their pockets! Does this mean that my students have carte blanche with phones in my room? No. Have I confiscated phones for misuse? Yes. Do my students hate me for it? Nope.

I think that is the main difference in a new teacher vs. a more experienced one. An experienced teacher can take a potential negative situation and turn it into a positive one. You can't learn that ability in a pre-service classroom. It is from experience in the field. It's why you can't stop teaching after 1 year. It's why you can't stop teaching after 2 years. Starting a class is so important to setting the stage for a successful year. The first year is a struggle because you suck at teaching, no matter how well you did in student teaching. I have been teaching for 14 years now. I still suck at it. But the key is I suck a lot less now than I did back then. If the day ever comes that I feel I don't suck anymore and have this teaching thing all figured out, I will know it is time to retire because at that point I will have lost touch with reality.

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