Thursday, June 10, 2010

10 Things I Have Learned In My First Year of Teaching

10 Things I Have Learned In My First Year of no certain order.

1. It is not about what you know, it is about passing the knowledge you have gained on to another generation.
  • Students expect you to know your material (why wouldn't you), but you can know everything about a subject and not be a good teacher. You have to be able to deliver that material to a student in a way that resonates with them. To adapt a phrase heard recently, being in a classroom makes you a teacher no more than standing in a garage makes you a car.

2. It is not about how YOU learn things.
  • Not everyone learns the way you did. This is a given with a decent amount of knowledge about education theory, but the important quest is to figure the best way to get the most of your students to learn.
3. One student can stop an entire class from learning for a period of time.

4. "When I was your age I..."
  • This statement is right out. Education goes in cycles. Each generation of teacher is schooled in a different fashion trend for teaching. Odds are the students have not been taught the things you were by their age if a trend has fallen out of favor.
5. Do not fall prey to teaching trends.
  • Your classroom is your ship. As long as you follow the standards for the area/state/region in which you teach, the thing that is important is what they know...not how they learned it.
6. Many students in High School cannot read well; do not assume they can.
  • In the words of Cris Tovani, I Read It, but I Don't Get It. You are doing none of your students a service by assigning things they cannot understand and assuming that reading is understanding.
7. The best way to learn to read better is by reading. (This one was not newly learned...only reinforced.)
  • Your students may assume that they cannot read and give do not have that luxury. Make them read to themselves, to the class (with the understanding that everyone deserves respect for the attempt), and do not be afraid to politely correct them for saying something wrong. Sometimes they really have not heard or seen that word before...why let them think they said it correctly if they did not.
  • Ask questions and expect answers. "I don't know" might be the most popular non-answer your students will give you, but how can they not know what they are thinking? Not every answer will be correct, but "I don't know" is too easy. Life is not that easy. Isn't that what we are preparing them for?
8. Do not be afraid of establishing an authoritative hierarchy within the classroom. Your students are not your peers.
  • They have friends, what they need are teachers. Make sure they know that...things will go more smoothly. --Again, not newly learned, but it merits listing.
9. Expect more from your students than they may be able to give.
  • At least attempt this with an exceptable cushion for success. Too much rigor will keep them more interested than a watered down lesson done out of apathy. Bored students lead to problematic students.
Last, but not least:

10. If a lesson does not quite work as planned do not give up; simply try it a different way.
  • If you teach a class three different periods of the day, you may have to teach the lesson three different ways. Again, it is not how your students get there that is the goal. It is simply that you get them to get it. Adapt, be creative, show them that you are humble enough to change your style for them while still being enthusiastic enough to allow the love of your content to shine through.

My first year in the classroom was not without concern, heartache, worry, and a thousand other emotions about the well-being of my students and my decision to become a teacher. That stated, I have had more joy and sense of accomplishment this past nine months than I have had in any other career that I have held as an adult. Sometimes the simplest, "Thanks for teaching me that," means more from one student than if all 120 had said it. Teaching is ups-and-downs on a regular basis. I can see where some would become disheartened. I'll take the ups of teaching to the downs any day. I cannot wait to start year 2 of many in August.

Friday, April 16, 2010

More than bothered by intolerance....

I am ever more and more concerned with our lack of civility as a society. I too am concerned (perhaps not on 4/19 necessarily) that this heated anti-government, anti-enlightened, anti-education rhetoric will spill over into some horrible act of violence. It is not a Washington thing, or a government thing, it is all over. I see it in the way that people interact. I see it in the words our youth use and their assumed acceptable things they say to adults. I am honestly and truly troubled by the intolerance, hatred, and unwillingness to get along and work together towards a common good. Anyone else?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Supreme Court...what have you done?

I suddenly feel like I am living in a different country. Am I mistaken in believing that we live in a country that is governed for its people by its people? This new judicial review from the conservative justices of the Supreme Court has undone 100 years worth of legislation that has worked to keep foreign and domestic special interests and corporations at bay when it comes to our electoral process. As one with a rational mind I am trying to keep the past few day's events in perspective, but it is difficult. Five individuals have decided that foreign and domestic corporations can have untethered ability to pour their general funds into local, state, and national elections. Am I wrong to feel concern that C-SPAN will soon be airing congressional daily coverage of the Representative from Microsoft or Halliburton instead of a Congress person from one of our 50 states? Additionally, is it unreasonable to think that a local coal company might be going to court for any various case that environmental groups or others might bring against them only to have the judge that is seated on the case in their pocket because they were the highest contributor in the recent local election? Again...trying not to become a wingnut here, but I think the little guy has just been placed on mute. As a Social Studies educator, it is within my field to understand the process of overturning judicial review (the deeming that previous laws are unconstitutional) and I am not sure that our respected gentlemen and ladies are in a place in Washington to amend the Constitution to protect us from this. It is said that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. I think corporations, both foreign and domestic, have just been handed a good dose of power.

Prediction: The Swiftboat and Willie Horton ads of elections past will seem like children's programming as compared to the new political ads we will see in elections to come. Welcome to the Corporate States of America.