Thursday, July 16, 2015


1. Classroom management is key. That has to work or nothing else will. If that doesn't work your life will be miserable and you'll spend all your time dealing with issues instead of teaching. Focus on this the first 2-3 years of your career and get really good at it. Then you can mentor others and can focus on other areas. Kids are smart and they want a leader and if YOU aren't it, they will take over.

2. Programs for math and literacy come and go, so get used to it and be flexible. I think, in the 25 years I have been teaching, I've had experience with at least 4 or 5 different math programs and probably 6 literacy programs. They all say that you need to teach it with fidelity and that if you waver from it's parameters, it won't work. The publishers and "experts" all think they are the "end-all-be-all" in their area. I don't think I've ever had training on a new program until at least 2 months into the school year. You will not get through what is expected of you the first year of using a new program. Usually programs are implemented in a school for about 5 years (sometimes as many as 9 years) before something else comes along. Take the best and leave the rest behind.

3. Stay with the same grade level for at least 5-6 years (unless you really hate that age group). You need time to figure them out what works best. Jumping from grade to grade every year won't allow you to figure out what works and what doesn't and to perfect your teaching somewhat. Staying with the same grade level allows you to do this. I taught in middle school for 2 years and hated every minute of it, but I learned a lot and I'm actually glad I did it.

4. If you want your room to look like this all the time....



.....that is great....I do too....BUT (please don't send me hate mail) will never have a life beyond this. I see these and love them, BUT....I think these people either don't have children yet, or their children are grown and gone. These are also the people that will probably suffer burnout very soon, because they wonder why they "have" to work until 8 p.m. every night to get all their work done. It takes A LOT of time. Some of this is possible, but expecting it to stay this way when you have 2 hands and there are 50 hands working against you, isn't realistic. The little organizers that hold 2 set of crayons, 6 pairs of scissors, and 4 glue sticks each, will be empty, scattered around the room, mysteriously disappear and half the glue sticks will be missing their tops, by the end of the day. Also teachers are known for spending TONS OF THEIR OWN MONEY (HINT: Set a budget each year on what you are going to spend and stick to it or you'll go broke.) on things for the classroom. I know because I did it too, until I realized that these "cutesy" things were not what I should have been focusing on. I know a lot of teachers who get there brothers, mothers, and best friends to help out labeling, painting and glueing for them, which is fine, but don't be upset if your room doesn't look like this. Teaching is a lot more than having everything match and color coordinated. Also, comparing yourself to and being jealous of other teachers will only make you miserable.

5. If you're not an organized person become one. You're life will be so much easier. Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to be a pack rat just because you are a teacher. I am by nature very organized, so this area is easy for me, but it can be done. You do not need to save every art activity sheet that was ever invented. Zip drives save you tons of space in your file cabinet. You do not have to have a 1000 copy inventory of class books. That's what libraries and school book rooms are for. Just because someone puts an item on the "free" table in the lounge doesn't mean you have to take it. Find people who are organized and ask them what works for them. Try an idea or two and see what system works best for you.

6. Grow and change....nothing is in stone. I don't think I have ever given the same unit test twice. Just because you create a unit for THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE in your first year of teaching does not mean you will be using that same unit again in year 8 or even year 2, for that matter. All classes are different and all kids are different. What works for one group may not work for another.

7. Priorities and boundaries. It's ok to say "no." You do not have to be on every committee, lead every meeting, teach summer school every year, take every professional development class and run every booth at fund raiser night. It's ok to take a sick day or even a mental health day. It's ok to eat your lunch and take a potty break. Believe me, if you sometimes say "no," the work will still get done.

8. Don't become a slave to testing. This has gotten way out of control in the past few years and it's probably going to get worse before it gets better. You have to find a happy medium between what is mandatory and necessary. Eventually the "powers that be" (those that have no experience and really have no idea what they are talking about), will realize that testing is not the magic pill. Everyone (teachers, parents, students, principals, board members, superintendents, publishers, the secretary of education, taxpayers....) will work together to take responsibility for fixing the education system. We all need to reinvent it. Only someone who's been in the classroom can really appreciate exactly what you do.

9. Become an expert at something. Do you love computers, photography, setting goals, basketball, or book clubs? Use that in your teaching to enhance how you teach. This will also make you an invaluable employee. If you love it, it will show in your teaching and what you get excited about the kids will too.

10. Make the janitor, the secretary and the technology persons your best friends. These people are invaluable to the workings of a school and they are taken for granted. By them a coffee or make them a plate of cookies. Say good morning and thank you. We need everyone to feel important so they can make the kids feel important.

11. For one child you will be the most important person in their lives. For one child you will be the only one who cares. For one child you will be the only smile they see. For one child you are their hero. For one child you will be the one who makes the all the difference. For one child you will be the one who finally makes that break through with their reading or math. For one child you will be the one they remember for the rest of their lives.

12. It's ok to make mistakes. It's ok to mess up a lesson and try again tomorrow. It's ok to not be perfect. It's ok to have a bad day. It's ok to cry. You're human.

13. Be prepared for anything to happen. You may get vomited on. You may have to be locking in  the room with the kids because of a S.W.A.T situation going on in the neighborhood. You may have to teach without the resources you need because the money just wasn't there, but the kids are. You may have to write things down when the copy machine brakes. You may cry. You may have to call Children's Services when you see bruises.

14. It's ok to ask for help.

15. You don't know it all. Even great teachers can learn new tricks.

16. Fake it until you make it.

17. Have a plan, but be willing to go with the flow. Some of the best conversations and learning lightbulbs can come from something that wasn't in your plan.

18. Every student can learn, just not in the same way, and not at the same time, and not from the same person, and not as fast, and not when you want them too, and not necessarily today.

19. You are not your evaluation.

20. Your students are not a test score.

21. It's ok not to like every kid every day and it's ok to have favorites, as long as no one knows it.

22. Parents don't always know best. Parents don't always love their kids.

23. Take the extra year to get your masters, have a specialty like special education or speech, get a couple extra endorsements like ESL, and get NATIONALLY BOARD CERTIFIED. You get paid a lot more, you are sought after and you can teach anywhere. I wish I had.

24. You don't need to reinvent the wheel.

25. Laugh. Sometimes that's the only thing you can do.

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