Sunday, July 5, 2015

10 pieces of advice for new teachers:

In just a few short weeks new teachers around the world will embark upon an exciting and crazy adventure. This adventure will surely have its fair share of ups and downs. In spite of that, this adventure will allow for countless opportunities to serve and positively impact current and future generations of students. This adventure will be like no other adventure...

Here are 10 pieces of advice I'd like to share with new teachers as they prepare for this adventure:

1). Strong student relationships will be your best friend. Get to know your students and get to know what makes them tick. Learn about their interests and hobbies and make sure they know you care about them. When students know you care about them, they will trust you. The strong relationships you create in the first few weeks of the school year will set the tone for the entire year.

2). Find time to go observe other teachers. Maybe this happens during your plan time or you work out some special arrangements with your building administrator, but going to observe other teachers teach will be very valuable for you. Also, don't just go and observe the teachers who you hear or think are good, go observe all types of teachers from all different content areas.

3). Don't be afraid to say, 'I don't know.' The people who always have an answer and the people who go to great lengths to make themselves sound smart or sound like they have every answer typically come off fake and insecure. You're new and it's ok not to know everything. Sometimes not knowing allows you to see things from a different and unique perspective which can be a positive. Embrace what you don't know.

4). Treat all students as if they were your students. Yes, of course you will have your own students, but at the end of the day all students are our students and they deserve to be treated as such. It takes a whole village and now you are a part of that village, so do your best to never say, 'those aren't my students.'

5). Plan for more and prepare for more than you think you need. When designing lessons and thinking about learning activities, it's often hard to know how long it may take. This is especially difficult for new teachers since in most instances they've never done that particular activity before. You'd rather have too much than not enough... but be careful and recognize that quality will always supersede quantity. This is especially true for student learning.

6). School districts are not employment agencies. In order words, you were selected to fill this teaching position because you bring a specific skill-set and/or expertise to the mix. Don't be shy to voice your opinion and don't be shy to speak your mind. You've got a set of experiences that others don't, so be sure you play an active role in what happens in your school and avoid being just a spectator.

7). Look in the mirror before pointing your finger. Sure, there are things that will be out of your control and things that will happen that you can't control, but at the end of the day, there are more things that we can control than we can't. Additionally, when things don't happen like you want them to or think they should, it's a lot easier to change what you are doing than to get others to change. Lastly, it's quite empowering when you take responsibility for what happens rather than shifting the blame to others.

8). Be aware and be on the look out for 'that' group of teachers. Most folks are good at heart and want to help. Unfortunately that leaves a few folks who aren't always equally committed to helping and seeing others succeed. Similarly, there are some folks who appear to thrive in the presence of others' failures. This group will be attractive because they welcome new members, and they especially like new young teachers who don't know any different. You've been warned...

9). Say 'yes' more often than you say 'no,' but don't be afraid to say no. As a new person, you will have opportunities to be a part of committees and groups. You will also be asked to attend professional learning events. You may even be asked to pilot new programs or initiatives. This can really add up quickly in terms of time commitment but you can also learn a lot in the process. Get involved but also remember that there are only 24 hours in a day, so there may come a time when you have to say, 'no thank you.'

10). Take responsibility and ownership for sharpening your own saw. Sure, you will have some conference and learning events you can attend, but don't let your learning and growth be limited to what your school or district provide. There are so many informal learning opportunities available to you, so be sure to take advantage of them. When it comes to your learning and growth, you know yourself best and you know your needs best, so take control of your own learning.

Good luck and enjoy this wonderful adventure... we've been waiting for you!