Sunday, June 25, 2006

A little more advice

Tip #1: Keep things simple. I don’t mean not to plan fun
or complicated lessons, but at first keep things relatively
easy. Students won’t necessarily be used to lessons where
they get out of their seats (seriously). Just don’t come
out with your “A” game. Show them your “A-” game.
You want to establish order in your room. Once you do that
you can do any activity you want to. Make sure that they
are successful on the first quiz or test. You will see
their best work in the first couple weeks—take advantage
of that attention. It is true you need to practice rules
and procedures in the first couple days, however you want
the students to think you will be a tough teacher and if
they work hard and listen they will (and can) be successful.

Tip #2: Don’t act surprised by the behavior, actions, and
speech of your students. It is like going to New York City
and gaping at the tall buildings. Share your surprise (or
horror) after school. Students will know you are a new
teacher and veteran teachers never even bat an eye at some
of the crazy things students say and do. Call your students
on inappropriate or disrespectful things they do or
day—establish early that you will not tolerate this kind
of stuff. Come up with tag lines (or an action or
consequence) you will say to them—after three weeks they
will say the tagline for you.

Tip #3 Be over-prepared for the first day. Have puzzles,
school handbook reading assignments, worksheets, etc ready
in case you have to hold your homeroom class for a long
time. Try to ask your administrator to walk you through
what will happen on the first day. This will help you sleep
the night before and if the administrator doesn’t know
himself he/she might start making those decisions. You
don’t need to be forceful about going over these
details—just stress that you want to be ready. Have your
room set up, name tags, rules and procedures, places for
student work, posters, and CLEAN your room. Really imagine
students in your room. You want to be over-prepared.
Memorize the bell schedule or post it somewhere you can
easily see it. Buy a clock for the room or have a watch if
there isn’t one in your room. Expect that the bells will
not be working correctly on the first day. Schedules
probably won’t be ready either. Be ready for anything.

Tip #4 Get to know your students. I was lucky being an
English teacher. They were always writing journal entries
about their lives and what they thought about. You have to
find something unique about every student. Know what they
like and don’t like. This will help you motivate and know
when your students are going to have a rough day. Take
advantage of surveys—this worked for me. I did learning
style assessments as well as surveys to find out prior
knowledge, what they may be interested in studying, and
getting feedback on previous lessons. Asking them what
helps/helped them learn forces them to think about how they
themselves learn best. I knew a lot about my students
because I thought they were interesting people. I spent two
hours everyday with them—and it was impossible not to want
to find out about their lives, opinions, and interests. It
really helps!

Tip #5: Stay organized. Find a system that works for you
and stick with it. I was terrible at this. I would be a
week or two behind in filing and I never seemed to catch up
after that first month of school. Develop your own system
for making sure paperwork goes to the right place. Do a
little everyday or find students that can help. Whatever
you do—do not drown in paperwork. It is easier said than
done, but if you know where things are going to end
up—your job is easier. Bribe the janitor to find you a
working file cabinet and you can buy your own manila folders
(cheap at walmart) at first. Without some sort of
organizational tools you will have no way of keeping track
of the paper flow.

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