Monday, August 20, 2012

It Takes a Village...To Raise A Teacher!

This week, we welcome twelve new teachers to our building. Some are new to the school system, some are new to the school, and some are completely new to teaching. Every year, I get sentimental about my first year of teaching for about thirty seconds. That was probably the toughest year of my life. I did learn some valuable lessons that made the years to come successful ones. I will have the opportunity to pass on some words of wisdom to these new teachers so that they will have a successful first year. Knowing that people aren't likely to recall anything more than three key points  when they hear someone speak, I am going to pass on the following three things:

  1. Know What You Stand For - Kids need to know what your expectations and procedures are from day one. Pick a few simple procedures and stick to them. You may need to practice them with the kids. This is encouraged! Don't go changing up the rules from week to week and from child to child. Inconsistent teachers end up with more discipline issues, and a lower academic success rate.
  2. Stay Organized - Keep your work area neat and organized. The last thing you want to do is have to speak to the parent of a student who's work got lost after it was turned in. Also, be sure to plan ahead. Materials should be all ready to go at least a day before a lesson is taught. You may have a student who needs special accomodations to complete an assignment. Make sure you have that ready, too. Most schools work in PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) and teachers will plan in advance and as a group. When you plan as a team, the whole team is counting on you to perform a task; such as creating warm-ups or perhaps an activity related to the concept being taught. Don't let your team or your students down by not being prepared.
  3. Be Professional - As a teacher, you are a role model. Dress the part. Khakis, a collared shirt, and shoes are usually a safe bet, but check your school's dress code to be sure. Sloppy is never an option, even on "dress down" days. The jeans I used to wear on dress down days when I was teaching were not the same ones I wore to work in the yard or hang out at home on a rainy afternoon. Also, be careful of what you post on social networks. You never know who your "friends" may be "friends" with. By the way, you need to be careful at parties and in restaurants, too. Having a parent seeing you passed out drunk somewhere isn't something you want to have to explain. Though any of the above may or may not cost you your job, they will definitely affect your reputation! Remember, parents talk.
Knowing what your new teachers are going to be up against, be sure to celebrate them, too. Encourage them to ask questions, utilize and observe their fellow co-workers, and research best practices on websites. Teaching is no longer a solitary profession, and those who are now entering the field wouldn't have it any other way. They expect to work as a team, and want to be coached so that they may improve. A short note or a word of encouragement can go a long way. Not sure how to help? Begin by imagining yourself in their shoes and go from there.

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