In September of 1999 after 9 years in the business world, I began a teaching career. Everything about that time was perfect, (even the pay cut). Sure I was clueless and constantly sweaty, but I was paired with a master mentor and although I’m pretty sure she wasn’t thrilled to have a chatty classroom mate, I was intuitive enough to watch, follow, and stuff as many of her teaching techniques away into my empty bag of tricks.
My bag has grown. Today I wanted to focus on something positive, so I’ve unpacked my bag of tricks to share some of its contents for new teachers.
Go to stuff. Sporting events, talent shows, plays, concerts are a good place to start. If you can get to an event outside of school, even better. Kids love seeing their teachers at events and that kid that you can’t get to, may suddenly have your back the next time class gets unruly.
Observe teachers that amaze you. Digest and reflect what you see, but slow down before rushing to adopt any of the classroom management techniques you like until you’ve tweaked and made them work for your teaching style.
Try to make every student in your room feel seen. Even if it’s just an exchanged smile, the goal is to have your students know they matter in your room.
Apologize. Bad days happen. I’m not proud to admit I’ve gotten snippy with a student or two. It feels awful, but it happens. When it does, apologizing goes a long way in repairing relationships. Students may act like they don’t even remember you got snippy, but their smiles after you apologize tell a different story.
Call home with good news! It’s the greatest when the parent or loved one learns you are not calling to discuss poor effort or behavior. You will usually get silence followed by this question, “Which teacher is this again?” (That kid will be your fan for life!)
Listen and Watch. Trends are not hard to spot. Ask your students to show you the newest dances. If you are feeling brave, use it as an incentive and let them teach you some moves for accomplishing such tasks as a full class of students for 5 days in a row.
Let your students get to know you. Hang your diploma, running medals, family photos. Show your human side so they can see you are more than just their teacher.
It is okay if you don’t know everything. The days of sage on the stage are over. Classrooms are open and kids have lots to teach us. The phrase, “I don’t know,” is powerful and opens up dialogue.
Be a welcoming and safe space for every kid in your room. Model respect and make it very clear that you will not tolerate any unkind words or actions. One of my greatest teaching experiences happened this year when a former student returned for a visit and told me how much it meant to him that I intervened when a student tried to make fun of his sexuality. I honestly didn’t remember that moment, but he sure did.
Finally, be good to yourself. Recharge when you feel the battery emptying. The work will still be there, but you will be better at it if you take time for the other things that bring you joy. Cry in the car, then laugh because you are crying. Tomorrow is a new day for each of us.
You’ve got this.