10 Things I've Learned From Teaching (in no particular order)
1. Jr high/high school kids are too tall to efficiently place garbage in a trash can - put your bins on chairs and you won't have trash surrounding the can.
2. Go Slow to Go Fast! The more time you take to explain, check comprehension, and break activities into small pieces, the more you will accomplish, and the faster it will go in the long run. If you rush or give too large a task to do at once, it will take sooooooooo much longer to get done.
3. You absolutely must have the support staff behind you. Take care of them, and they will go over and beyond for you. One, because they are good people who have usually chosen their profession because of a desire to help. Two, because they are treated poorly by most faculty, so they appreciate appreciation. Nice matters! (Fabulous example: I was recently rehired by a school I used to work at. During the "tour" part of the interview at different points the principal and I ran into the three custodians, all of whom made a big fuss over me. Talk about your good impressions!)
4. Look for opportunities to make a personal connection with your students, even if it's something silly. I once had a student totally zone out (not pharmaceutically, just daydreaming) at the beginning of class, and as a result she was still sitting in her desk in the middle of the classroom alone after all of the other kids had left for the computer lab. I just stood at the door and waited for her to come back to reality, at which point she was really surprised. When we took our next test, I stapled this in the middle of her copy:
(apologies to Bill Watterson)She loved it!
5. Never underestimate the motivating power of stickers. Yes, really, for high schoolers - when they see that some kids got stickers and they didn't, most will step it up on the next assignment/quiz/test/etc. The same applies to cool stamps.
6. If you have a group of really annoying jocks in one class who are all great friends and band together, it REALLY helps if the "hot girl" in class is on your side. I was dreading a second semester class one year because I knew I had a group like this. "Hot girl" was in this class, and since I have several different preps this was the sixth class of mine she had taken. The second day of class she asked "When are we going to start taking notes?" in an anticipatory tone. Captain Football asked her "Why are you so excited about taking notes?" She said "Her notes are really fun and interesting, not boring like other teachers'!" Never once had a problem or disruption during lectures in that class.
7. Schools are almost incestual. They are a web of relatives, in-laws, best friends, frenemies, childhood friends, etc... staff, faculty, students, and administrators, all interwoven. Until you really know your school, never say anything about anyone, ever; in fact, just hold on to that rule the whole time you work there.
8. Make NO assumptions. Never, ever, ever assume your students know anything, no matter what grade they are in. Always assess (and by this I of course do not mean bubble tests). I have had seniors who did not know multiplication tables, food groups, or how to create a title page. I've had untold (and growing) numbers of students over the years who did not know how to hold scissors. Reading levels, comprehension levels, basic social skills levels... you cannot assume anything.
9. You will care more than your students do. No matter what you teach, your class is a mere tiny fraction of their lives. They will not be as excited as you about the tedious details of your content area; they will not devote enough attention to preparing for your class; they will not be mentally present for your class at all times, every day. Your class will never be their first priority. That's NORMAL. And freeing. That short writing assignment from a week ago you just haven't been able to get around to grading? They've forgotten about it. It's okay to occasionally let things like that disappear. No matter what crazy thing happens during your first hour class, something will trump it by the end of their school day. Five years from now, they will only remember vague bits and pieces from your class (think back to your own high school career!), so if a lesson doesn't go well one day, or a unit tanks - it's okay! Do better next time! You will not destroy their education if every day isn't a homerun.
10. You are never "off the clock." No matter how hard you try, you will only be able to push teaching out of your mind for very brief periods of time. You will be on vacation and start thinking about pencil procedures; you will be out to a nice dinner with your husband and recall that nasty parent phone call you received; you will be at Target and, well, you know very well what happens every time you go to Target. For better or worse, you will never leave the job at work.
Those are my ten things! Link up and add yours!