Really?

Just think about it for a minute. Maybe you already signed your contract, but I bet you could get out of it if you tried. The principal will understand. Just say you were all hopped up on Rafe Esquith books or that you watched Stand & Deliver too many times, but that now you realize you’ll never be Jaime Escalante.

You really want to be a teacher?

Are you sure?

Come on, be serious. Really think about this. You know your cousin could get you a job at her company in the marketing department. Advertising is kind of like teaching. You’d be happy. You’d make close to six figures after four, maybe five years.

OK, you’re sure. Well, don’t say I didn’t try to persuade you to try something else. The truth is, once you start teaching you’re in for life, or at least until you bail or burnout or just have a mild, mid-year meltdown, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

You’re a teacher! Congratulations. Someone once said that teaching is the hardest job you’ll ever love. Who said it? I don’t know. That’s your first lesson today: teachers are the worst students! Remember that, but try to swim against the current on that one. Go to meetings. Be early. Listen and take notes for crying out loud! Just because other teachers are talking or texting or both doesn’t mean you should follow their example. Be attentive and attempt to expand your knowledge base. Just because the presenter is arrogant and hasn’t really been in the classroom for a few years doesn’t mean that you should tune out. Be there. Be ALL about it and then you can recycle your notes later!

That was sort of related to attitude, wasn’t it? Let’s take a look at that.

I know that this is something you’ve been working toward for a long time. I know. Good job. Your fresh perspective is useful and needed, but it’s all in the delivery, you know? Please, do yourself a favor and walk through those school-house doors with as little ego as possible. Be the embodiment of Taoist living. (Go with the flow is what I’m saying. Just for a bit.)

I have a poster in my classroom that says: “Today is a great day to learn something new.” Take the opportunity to listen and learn from your colleagues. It might take some time, but look to them to be your guide. Sure, you might find some veterans who have a negative streak and will talk your ear off about how “things used to be,” but suck it up and for God’s sake shut up! Don’t come in and start rambling on about all your good ideas! They are good. Really, but just wait your turn. It’s all about action. Show what you know. Share your ideas and support how successful they are in your classroom with concrete data. (It’s all about data these days!) Sure, you have plans. We all do, but honestly, do yourself a favor and get a bead on things. Take the pulse. See which way the wind blows.

Just take a moment to look around at the members of your team and see that they want to help children succeed just like you do. That’s the number one job. Helping children attain academic and social success is every teacher’s goal. Those cantankerous old-timers want you on their side and you NEED them on your side. Build a support group in your building that you can rely on in times of educational and emotional stress. Trust your instincts and you will find amazing mentors. You just have to be patient and not come in with your mind made up about what is best. You’re just setting yourself up for a headache.

Be open to suggestions.

Smile.

Have a positive attitude about everything, especially when you are in front of the students. (They pick up on your negative vibes and they will become a living, breathing mega-organism of your bias if you are not careful.)

Use manners.

You laugh, but recall what I said about teachers and what horrible students they are. Every day you will witness teachers acting in ways that we would lose our minds over if we saw our kids do the same things. Don’t judge, just lead by example. Be the best teacher you can be. Hold out your hand and help others along. Show them the good things you are doing and be willing to see the good things they are doing. Whatever you do just don’t come out and say how great you are. (Again, you laugh, but I’ve seen it and then I watched that teacher go down in flames. Sad, really.) Anyway, no one appreciates someone tooting their own horn, unless you have the data to back it up. (Always remember the data!!) In that case toot away. Beep! Beep!

So, final thoughts. Still going to be a teacher? Good.

Just remember to be kind, keep your ears open and your mouth shut for a little while, share materials, build a team, find a mentor, and most of all remember what my mentor told me just as I was finishing my student teaching. (She’s probably reading, so K.P., if I don’t get your quote right don’t sue me!)

We were sitting in her classroom and my time was almost up. It was the end of the year and we were really just hanging out, organizing some teaching materials.

“Do you have friends?” she asked out of the blue.

“Well, yeah,” I responded, a little bit confused by her question.

“So, you don’t need these kids to be your friends, right?”

“Of course not.”

“Good, you can’t be their buddy and their teacher, OK?”

I’m sure you’ve heard a variation of that conversation, but it’s true. We should be a guide, a consistent role-model, reliable; we should be friendly, but not friends with our students. Since we are so focused on student achievement it is sometimes easy to forget that our true friends in the school are not the kids, but the staff. The other teachers and staff members are there to help you do your job. Rely on them. Build a good working relationship with them. Be a part of the academic community. Treat them with respect and in turn they will move Heaven and Earth to assist you.

Snub them and you will be dead to them.

Seriously.

Good luck and see you next time when we discuss “pet” projects and content correlation. (Trust me, it will be more fun than it sounds!)

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So, You Want to Be A Teacher: The First Part

7 thoughts on “So, You Want to Be A Teacher: The First Part

  1. Thank you! First of all I was so excited to see not one, but two new posts. Once again, I am amazed and impressed with your writing talents. I am tempted to read them outloud, which teachers know is the ultimate compliment (A solid 6 on the voice ,word choice,and sentence fluency writng rubric!). As for the content (another 6 for “Ideas and organization”) could you do an inservice at our new teacher orientation? You nailed the difference of new teachers being prepared and then really being prepared to be successful. We never stop learning how to do our job better. As the “old dog” I am so thankful on a daily basis that my friends who also are my partners in education help me to learn and impliment new “tricks ” all the time. I am grateful that Semple and my other support “team” members , make a really tough profession less so and enjoyable and rewarding. (Conventions—a 6 of course!)

    • Thanks, Puryear. My mentor speaks and continues to be a part of my learning process!! Thanks for reading and all the encouragement. Enjoy summer. It’s going to go quickly. Ah-ha! Sounds like a topic for a future advice post, “Why Using Time Off is Important to a Teacher.”

  2. It’s surprising how much of this applies to assessing and training in the workforce…

    I could never be a teacher, I’d smack side every bully in the school and heckle the hell out of half awake teachers… I finely tuned this when i was a student back in the 90’s. I’d hate to see myself in that environment now. I have a hard enough time training people as it is.

    • Thanks. Funny! You’d probably make a great teacher. Many of us are just “reformed” school “trouble-makers” anyway!! We know what we don’t like in a teacher so we approach things in a different way. Although, the “smacking” is definitely discouraged.

      • Can I at least throw chalk dusters / white board dusters at their heads?? If not, teaching is not for me…. OH WAIT!!! Can I electrify their pens so all I need to do is push a button and they get zapped… the more they piss me off the longer I can hold it! I’ll even let the stereotyped ‘nerds’ to push the buttons on their lunchtime bullies!!!

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