As the school year ends and summer begins, I have had lots of time to begin to reflect about my past year. There were good times, great times and not so great times, but overall it was an amazing adventure in a Title 1 urban middle school. I wanted to share a few things that I learned this year.
1- Be Yourself
I started the year trying to be and mimic all the teachers I had seen in my life. My great 6th grade teacher and some amazing ones from High School and College. While trying to "be" them, standard teacher culture snuck into my classroom as well. I begin to lecture and commit death by PowerPoint. I told my students to be quiet and stay seated, raise their hand, etc... well, because that was what my teachers told me.
But soon I realized that this wasn't me and wasn't how I wanted my classroom to be. So I stopped living in the old school culture and decided to be me. My life and my students transformed dramatically. No longer did I require student to sit silently for 50 minutes. My students were up and moving around the classroom, participating and learning. My students became leaders in my room and the school. My scores went up and more importantly I was able to make a great connection with my students. It only required me to decide to be myself and dismiss the 1950's school culture that I had inherited from my school days.
2- Get Out and Roam
3- Involve yourself
Schools always have something extra going on. A after school club, tutoring, musical, and plenty more. As a new teacher, there is no better way to get to know the school, students and staff then involving yourself in something extra. The relationships you build with students in these activities can be invaluable when it comes to behavior in the classroom. But be careful not to over involve yourself either.
4- Don't be afraid to laugh or look silly
New teachers always feel like they have to stand in front of the room and command the students with a stern face. My college professor once told me, "Don't smile until after Christmas". I thought, how is that possible? I decided to go the other way. I love to laugh and joke and I love to share it with my students. As a new teacher, it is important to let the students know that you are human. The more they feel that way the better they will respond to you. This is not to say that class is all fun at all times, no, there has to be some sort of order in the classroom but order without fun is pointless.
5- Be aware of everything.
It is your job as a teacher to know everything. You need to know how the school works, upcoming events, policies, and procedures. You need to know every kid and what motivates them and what triggers them. You need to know what is going on at all times in your classroom, the hall, etc. I know that this sounds like a lot, but the more you know the more prepared you will be and the more effective you can be.
Always ask questions, keep great notes, and keep your ears open. If you sit behind your computer during class, you will miss a great deal. Be up and walking around to keep your students and yourself on point.
Bonus! #6 - HAVE FUN!
You are a teacher and you get to spend all day with some of the most hilarious people you will ever meet. You will laugh, you will cry and you will stare in bewilderment. But always know that what you are doing will affect your students. It is up to you to determine if it is for the better or worse.