I can't believe how much I've learned in my first week. I love being so immersed in a school, right from the beginning. All the other teachers have been giving me tons of advice, and I've been able to do lots of observations, let alone what I've been learning from my hands-on experience. Here's what I've discovered so far:
1. Keep your nose clean.
There's a lot of gossip. A lot. I like to just nod and smile. If possible, I try not to listen. It makes me uncomfortable when I know this teacher doesn't like that teacher, and so on, and then I have to work with both. Best to befriend everyone and keep your mouth shut.
2. Befriend everyone.
I nod and smile at everyone--the secretaries, the IT person, the janitors, everyone. I need their help! Plus, I've heard if you get on their bad side, they can make your life a living hell.
3. "Teaching is 90% classroom management and 10% content."
I've heard this from several teachers. You can't teach if your class is out of control. Plus, that's what you're evaluated on most. You're not going to get re-hired if you can't run a classroom.
(The other quote I've heard to death (which I don't like quite as much): "Don't let 'em see you smile 'til Christmas".)
4. Start out strict. Loosen up only if they are angels and the year is over halfway done. You can always loosen up but it's almost impossible to become more strict.
5. Use positive reinforcement, whenever possible.
Give students chances for success. To encourage students to participate, hand out raffle tickets to those who do. They get to put them in a jar, which I can draw from weekly to give out prizes. Plus, I can count up the raffle tickets and assign extra credit, or determine who needs to participate more by seeing how many times their name appears in the jar.
6. Use assigned seats.
Students pay better attention when they're not next to their friends. Plus, it's MUCH easier to learn their names. In addition, it's good for students to learn to work with a variety of people, especially those they don't know.
7. Learn their names and pronounce them right.
Students hate when you get their names wrong, even if it's the first day. Hate it!
8. Leaving class to go to the bathroom is a privlege. Use only for emergencies.
Only let students go one at a time. Use a bathroom pass. Or, hand each student 4 passes for the semester and instruct them to use them wisely. Once they're gone, they're gone. Otherwise, students will leave in great masses to escape class and congregate in the bathroom.
9. Don't be afraid to say, "No."
It's hard for me to flat-out say, "No, you can't go to the bathroom right now." It's not my nature. But as a teacher, kids will test their boundaries. They are accustomed to a teacher saying no without providing an explanation. They know better. Tell them no.
10. Break them up into groups for activities as much as possible.
Students learn best by doing and are the most engaged and productive when they get to use their hands. Plus, they get to learn from each other. It's easier for a teacher to work with students in small groups or one-on-one when they're in groups, allowing me to get to know my students better. Not to mention that it's easier on me. Less work! (Work smarter, not harder).