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.