Today I am writing about being a teacher and thinking back on my career especially when it started. We go to college and learn our subject matter, take those fancy classes about classroom management, fundamentals of teaching and all those other elective classes to prepare to go conquer the world and be the best teacher we can possibly be. Prior to graduation you serve an intern with a veteran teacher and in a short semester you are off into the field at your first job. I am not discounting all the training, classes and prior knowledge and experience brought into that first job. It is a plus and helps set a foundation for a bright future, one that regardless of what some people think is not easy, very rewarding and comes from the heart.
Over the years we have all been through tons of training, read books, attended seminars and continued our education to become the most qualified teacher, mentor, facilitator, administrator, media specialist, lead teacher, and all the other opportunities that are open to an educator. Principals, School Boards, Admin teams, Superintendents come and go and as they do so does all the new training, ideals, books, philosophies, rules, regulations and all that other stuff that is part of that turnover. The one thing that stays the most consistent though is the frontline teachers, assistants, cafeteria workers, custodians and all office personnel having to adapt and overcome the best they can. Lets not forget to say the students and parents as well as these moves in and out by career driven admins create inconsistencies for the community as well.
I have worked for some fabulous administrators, superintendents and well, unfortunately for some that were full of it and just did not manage things effectively, communicate well, take care of their students, staff and admin teams. Thank goodness, these have been far and few between the good ones. I am grateful for all of them as lessons are learned and growth takes place within adversity. Being comfortable is the easy way out, but when we get thrown out of our comfort zone it creates opportunity for us to grow in our chosen profession and life. With this said I have some advice for those considering teaching, new teachers, veterans and those set in their ways (we call them career teachers).
I am not a perfect teacher by no means and have had a great career working with students, teaching, mentoring and coaching them for many years now. I am honored to work with such great people, students, parents and admins daily. We teach because we care, we teach because we want to make a difference, we teach because someone else made a difference in our lives at some point in a classroom, a band room, a football field, the gym or in the admins office. Below are some ideas and tips for you to stay fresh, relevant and continue to deliver rigorous content to your students and allow them the best possible learning environment possible.
1- 3 C’s- Be absolutely Clear, Concise and Consistent in your interactions with the students, staff and parents. They must know your expectations and that you will be the three things listed above. I am not saying be a jerk, micro manager or the “boss”. What I am saying is our kiddos need consistency, clear concise communication and consistent modeled behavior. You say “yes sir”, “no mam”, “please and thank you” to them and watch what happens. I call it the Barney Rule! My kids address one another with those terms of endearment because of modeled behavior. I do not respond to “hey”, “bruh”, “dude”, “what”, “yo” or any of those other slang words kiddos use today.
2- Effective Classroom Management- Hold yourself and the students accountable for their actions, behaviors, often misguided teenager intentions. Remember, we were once teenagers and probably acted a little silly, stupid, couldn’t sit still or just acted out at times. Boundaries must be set and it you monitor your classroom, feed positive vibes, correct the correctable behaviors then your classroom will be an effective, supportive and inviting learning opportunity for the kiddos. As a backup point to number one, my kids correct one another in class when they hear someone say a “bad or derogatory” word. It puts the expectation on them and of course, I am always there to get it straight if need be.
3- Be Flexible- This sounds the opposite of the above, but I am not referring to just winging it daily or changing paths on a consistent basis. What I am saying is that you have to be flexible at times. The best laid plans often fall short or just are not getting it. There are a number of variables that can slow you down, mess you up and set you back (attendance, sickness, holidays, behavior, school campus activities) and so many others. Be flexible, have a backup plan and a backup plan for that one just incase. Allow the students to engage one another, make presentations, build projects and do hands on stuff.
4- 3 R’s- Relevance, Rigor and Review- Teach your content, but do not teach to a stupid test. Teach relevant topics that can help your students grow their overall educational background. Make it rigorous by using all kinds of teaching techniques to push them to learn and lastly, review to make sure they picked up what you have worked on with them. Do not find out after the fact they missed it, teach, review, practice, teach, review, practice and master it the best you can.
5- Pick and Choose your battles- Not every issue is worth a fight with a student. Know what is in their back pack. I do not mean literal pencils, books, PE clothes, etc. I mean home life, homelessness, behavior disorders, learning disorders, parental issues, sickness, health, hunger, abuse, working jobs, how many siblings, single parenting, street life, school and athletic pressures, and tons of other stuff they bring to school in that backpack. Know your students and what they are packing. Sometimes, it is just better to not address it, let it stew for a bit, handle it later or speak with the student quietly and calmly. RELATIONSHIPS! Let me repeat, RELATIONSHIPS! That will allow you and the student to begin to “unpack” that backpack one issue at a time.
6- Have fun, grow daily and go home- Never let them see you sweat, make sure they know you appreciate them, love them, push them, hold them accountable, take care of them, feed them, counsel them and make sure their well being is always #1. The rest will take care of itself.
Grace before grades! What is allowed will persist! Never let them see you sweat! Always remember who’s name is on the classroom door! Build relationships, rigor and be relevant.
Have fun, enjoy and teaching is the best job ever!
God Bless! Coach B