Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Linky - 10 Things I've Learned

Hooking up with a Linky from Miss Kindergarten - aside from Farley's Currently I don't really do much in the Linky world, but this looks like a good one! Most of the teachers on this Linky are elementary, so here goes a middle school/high school perspective.

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!


  1. I love making the Calvin and Hobbes. The fact that you're student like it is even better.

    Ha...I read you're #10 and just went "yup" ....then I see your an Illinois Blogger too. This happens every single time I go to the store. The great thing is when the kids whisper to their parents "there's my teacher" or just shout your name.

    great post
    Digital: Divide & Conquer
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  2. I enjoyed reading your post! So true especially #10! And I love the one about trashcans...who knew?

  3. Definitely agree with your #7. Especially when joining a new staff it's hard to know who is really close. I am not one to just talk trash, yet I've had certain experiences that I've needed to vent about. Most people I talk with share my frustrations, yet you just never know what will be repeated. Probably should keep a diary instead!

  4. I am so happy I found your blog!! Go Family and Consumer Sciences!
    This is my second year teaching high school FCS in NJ. I am so nervous to start teaching in the fall again!
    It will be my first year teaching Early Childhood (along with 8 preschoolers) I have no idea where to start!
    Do you have any more awesome tips?

    1. Second year is sooooo much better than first! You've kind of got your game on from the beginning, and you can start fixing the things that didn't go so well the first time around.

      I had an EC class with preschoolers during my student teaching and then once during my fourth year of teaching. My biggest challenges were: 1) keeping my high schoolers separated so that they socialized with the littles and not each others and 2) convincing the high schoolers during the planning phase that the littles were NOT going to want to color all. the. time. The bigs learned that one the hard way!

      Hope you have a terrific year two!