Tag Archives: advice for teachers

A New School Year: What Teachers Should Consider

Another school year is on the horizon.  Teachers are cramming in last minute vacations, working in their classrooms, and enjoying their last few mornings to sleep late.  After five years of retirement, I get a little nudge of envy this time of year when I pass schools and see teacher cars in the parking lots and coaches readying their practice fields.  Miles of bulletin board border stretches through schools across the nation as teachers take great pains to build “Welcome Back to School” displays.  Coaches scramble to ensure ice machines are working for the 100-degree plus heat indexes they will encounter in August and early September, and the excitement grows as band and cheerleaders roll out new shows and skits for football half-time and pep rallies.

Do I miss it?  HELL NO!  Global warming has so dismantled this old body, I wouldn’t last five minutes under a Mississippi sun in mid-August.  As for bulletin boards, I was one of those coaches who used the same bulletin board for sixteen consecutive years.  The school librarian or a lady teacher who felt sorry for me would help me change the border once or twice a year, but that was the extent of my bulletin board creativity.  No, I don’t miss the heat, the prep, or the job at all, but I do miss the kids and the people I worked with for so many years.

Since retiring, I have kept my distance from the school house, but at the beginning of each new school year I raise my head just high enough to offer a little advice to teachers.  During thirty-seven years as an educator, I learned a thing or two about the profession.  I learned the hard way through stubbornness, luck, trial and error, and from people a lot smarter than me that there are certain practices and principles that can make a teacher’s job a little less stressful and help them feel less alone.  YES, I said less alone!  Although surrounded daily by big and little people, teachers are in many ways engaged in the loneliness job on earth.  Often, they feel like they are swimming alone in a sea of negativity shackled by lead expectations and mandates few understand and fewer can explain [differentiated instruction in a classroom of thirty instantly comes to mind].  So, if I can offer a tidbit or two that might make a new or veteran teacher’s day a little better or prolong a career, I feel justified sharing the little I know.  Therefore, from the shadows of retirement where retirees become better teachers and administrators with each passing day, I offer the following advice, support, and consolation:

What Every Teacher Needs to Consider

  1. Teaching is not about delivering seeds; it is about planting, cultivating, and harvesting;
  2. Never sell your students or yourself short. Prepare for class, teach in class, and hold students accountable in class;
  3. Teach like you want your children to be taught. If you are not okay with your child’s teacher giving less than his/her best in the classroom, don’t settle for less than your best when teaching someone else’s children;
  4. Don’t worry about your pay. There is nothing wrong with wanting a pay raise but be thankful for what you have.  You signed a contract saying you were willing to work for a certain amount of money, so work for it.  The time to be unhappy with your pay is before you sign on the dotted line.  Kids don’t care how much money you make, and in the classroom, there are more important things for a teacher to worry about than a paycheck;
  5. If you would rather be somewhere other than the classroom, do yourself and the kids a favor and be somewhere else – preferably not in teaching;
  6. Worry only about the things you can control, pray about the things you might can influence, and don’t waste your time or breath on what you cannot control;
  7. Understand you will never be fully appreciated for all you do as a teacher. Don’t waste time or sleep worrying about it.  Refer to #6 when negatives get you down;
  8. Politicians are not your friends. Parents are not your friends.  Students are not your friends.  If you need a friend, or someone to be there for you when things go south, look in the mirror or look to your family;
  9. Although teaching days can become long and tedious, DON’T look for excuses to show movies, assign busy work, or allow free time in class! Very little if any student learning takes place during such lazy stagnant activities.  Teaching is about learning, and teachers have a limited amount of time to make learning happen.  DO your job to ensure students have a fair chance to learn in your classroom.  Students have greater respect for teachers who follow this practice;
  10. Be proud to be a teacher. Stand tall in the knowledge you are smarter, more courageous, thicker skinned, more loving, and more resilient than 90% of the population.  The other 10% are retired school teachers;
  11. Remember of all the professions God could have chosen for his son, he made him a teacher, so remember, as a teacher you represent the best of the best. You stand in elite company; and
  12. The best you can hope for in life is to have more good days than bad. Teaching is no different.

Finally, probably the two best pieces of advice I can offer are . . .

A GREAT TEACHER WILL ALWAYS DO WHAT IS BEST FOR HIS/HER STUDENTS!

and

GREAT TEACHERS TEACH AND DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF!

 

Teaching is an awesome ride for those with the courage and perseverance to stay in the saddle, but it is not for the faint of heart, the selfish, or the lazy.  It takes a special person to be a teacher, and I pray God’s blessings will be with all those special people during the coming school year.  WELCOME BACK!

JL

©Jack Linton, July 20, 2018

Twenty Tips for New Teachers (or Veteran Teachers)

Over the years, I have been asked numerous times for advice or tips I would offer new teachers or veteran teachers.  I always respond by saying the little I know is the result of professional reading (at least thirty minutes daily) and mistakes I made as a teacher and a school administrator.  I think the biggest mistake most teachers make is looking for perfection.  This mistake can cost them their joy as a teacher.  It causes them to lose sight of what teaching is about and why they signed on to teach in the first place.  Sometimes teachers become so blinded by the pursuit of perfection, they lose sight of the good they do, and as a consequence they drum themselves out of the profession.  No matter how badly they want it, there is no such thing as the perfect student, the perfect parent, or the perfect teacher, so my advice to teachers is to STOP looking for perfection, and replace it with an expectation of always “putting forth the best you can do.”  That is the highest expectation, teachers can ever hope to achieve from their students; it is the highest expectation they can ever expect of themselves.  Next, I would advise teachers to MAKE TEACHING A COMMITMENT:  commitment to the teaching journey, commitment to learning from mistakes, commitment to professional learning, and commitment to NEVER giving up on students or themselves.  After that, I would offer the following advice and tips:

  1. You WILL make mistakes – learn not to repeat them – learn to apologize and move on! Making a mistake is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign you are not sitting still;
  2. It’s okay to have fun! Good teachers figure out how to make learning fun!
  3. Use handouts as a teaching tool, not a “keep them busy” tool. Remember, teachers teach and subs give handouts!   Which are you?
  4. Use pre-test to assess your student’s existing knowledge. Pre-assessments will help you make your teaching more relevant and their learning more meaningful;
  5. Communicate with parents often! Nothing can be more unsettling to a teacher’s day than a surprised or angry parent who has been kept in the dark about their child’s progress;
  6. Greet students at the door like you are happy to see them – not like they are the plague;
  7. Be on time for duty! The safety of students and your career is on the line.  Monitoring duty in the cafeteria, in the hall between classes, before school, or after school is a necessity!  It is not a useless punishment your uncaring principal has placed on you;
  8. Make note of teachers who always complain and are unhappy – be nice to them, but stay away, unless you want to be like them;
  9. Be proud to be a teacher! You have the most important job in the world.  You influence young lives every day, so decide every morning if it will be a positive influence or a negative influence;
  10. Assign seats! Especially until you get to know your students.  Assigning seats also makes it easier and faster to take roll;
  11. If you do not plan to discuss and review homework in class the next day, DO NOT assign homework! Homework is only effective if it is used as a formative tool with timely feedback to students;
  12. DO NOT assign work in class that will not be discussed, reviewed, or graded. Like the teacher, students DO NOT need busy work;
  13. Never make an online assignment without first checking the websites, including links to other websites. Ask these questions – Is it active?  Like most everything, websites do not last forever.  Is it blocked by the school filter?  If blocked, seek help from the school technology person to unblock it.  Is it appropriate?  Make sure the content is appropriate for the student age level you teach as well as for the community the school serves;
  14. Always, always, always preview movies to be shown in class. Movies should be used sparingly in class and then only in small clips to support discussion of the lesson.  Showing a movie that takes up one to three days of class time is poor practice and a waste of instructional time.  Showing a movie in its entirety is lazy teaching;
  15. If you assign a book or website that may be controversial to students, their families, or the community do the following: (1) meet with the principal and seek his/her support by explaining why you have chosen the material and its value to the learning process; (2) Send home a notice to parents/guardians that some content may be offensive and explain why you believe it is necessary to use the material in class; (3) offer an alternative assignment for students and/or parents who object to the content (use of offensive language, use of graphic sex, etc.);
  16. Never argue with a student in class! You are the authority in the classroom!  If a student wants to challenge authority let him/her challenge the authority of the assistant principal or the principal;
  17. Teaching for student success:
    1. Pre-assess (pre-test) knowledge;
    2. Provide students learning targets based on pre-assessment needs;
    3. Teach what you want them to know;
    4. Use on-going assessment (formative) throughout the lesson. Check frequently for understanding;
    5. STOP and re-teach if and when necessary;
    6. Assess what you want them to know (summative);
    7. Use summative assessment as a formative tool (feedback) for student learning; and
    8. Re-teach if and when necessary.
  18. Being a TEACHER is NOT about teaching; it is about LEARNING! You may be the greatest presenter of content of all time, but if your students don’t learn, you have failed as a teacher;
  19. Remember, it’s okay to breathe! Teaching is a monstrous responsibility, but if you teach with the same passion and compassion you expect from your children’s teachers, you will be okay; and
  20. Enjoy the teaching journey! You are a part of an awesome group of people.  You are a teacher because you care.

These tips are basic, but if followed, they can serve the new teacher or the veteran teacher well.  Teachers must always maintain high expectations, accept nothing but the best from their students, and never give up on the least of them or themselves.  A tall order, no doubt, but kids will tell you – GOOD TEACHERS CAN DO ANYTHING!

JL

©Jack Linton, August 24, 2016