My little sister is finishing up her senior year at Michigan State and has begun the process of certification to becoming a teacher. Her progress has got me thinking about some of the advice I received when I first started teaching and has given me an opportunity to ponder what words I would give now to a new teacher embarking on a career in education. With that in mind, what follows is a few words of advice for new teachers mixed in with a bit of personal commentary. Some statements used here were elicited responses that I received from friends and peers on Twitter and Facebook.
“Buy a good pair of comfortable brown and black shoes.”
This is some advice that was given to me from my dad’s cousin, a math teacher at the school where I completed my student teaching. It only took me a few days in the classroom to realize how right she was. A good teacher is constantly on the move and rarely has time to take a seat. There are always improvements that can be made, supervision that needs to be done, and students that need assistance; be up and be mobile and you will go a long way toward increasing effectiveness.
“Voice ‘their dreams’ and share w us+ diversity of thought matters!” @MeghanMBiro via Twitter
Every student you encounter in the classroom will have aspirations, dreams, and goals. It is your duty to be the key that unlocks that student to the rest of the world. Too often students are shunned for voicing their opinions; be the teacher that welcomes those thoughts.
“New teacher? Remember what you came here to do and believe you can do it with every fiber of your being.” @blancaedu via Twitter
The first week and then the first year of education can be a shocking and eye-opening experience. It is during this time that most young teachers come to the realization that being a teacher is so much more than just working with students. When you reach the breaking point it is important to step back and remember why you chose the profession in the first place; being there for students and making a difference in their futures.
“Open their eyes to their own potential and help them get there.” -Chris Ming
When I am discouraged by a difficult day or some of the other tasks that take away from my efforts in the classroom I always to internalize this thought. I truly believe that every child that walks into my classroom has the potential to do something great. Often times, they are unaware of where their greatness lies and it is up to me to serve as the keymaster that unlocks their hidden potential.
“Most tchrs do more than a full-time yr in 180 days.” @ThePaperGrader via Twitter
Education and the perceived failure of the school system is a major hot-button topic right now. By entering into the teaching field, you are putting yourself into the public crosshairs. You will hear all kinds of comments about “having the summers off” and “only working half a year”, but truth be told you don’t get any breaks. People outside of the world of education simply do not know the time and commitment necessary to be in education; there is no down time and you are constantly seeking improvement.
“Keep work at work and leave the weekends for your personal life and family, because co-mingling of the two leads to BURN OUT!!!” -Tracy Carpenter Cann via Facebook
New teachers have all heard the comment that, “most teachers leave the profession is less than 5 years.” There is a lot of truth to that statement and it stems from two factors; one, being a teacher is not just teaching students, and two, new teachers do not have enough separation in their lives. The advice above is likely the best you will read in this post, simply put, you have to keep a part of yourself to yourself and not completely identify yourself through your work. This job will consume you if you let it!
“Befriend the custodians and the secretaries. They’re the ones that really run the school.” – Kelly Corcoran Eddy via Facebook
There are a lot of moving parts that have to come together to effectively educate a child and the school concept is constructed around the idea that everyone must do their part in order to make the child successful. The parts around you enable you to do your job and at the same time can make it difficult to do your job as well; get on their good side and your life will be a whole lot easier and your job experience that much better. Most of the time all it takes is a smile and a well placed hello (a Starbucks gift card certainly doesn’t hurt though).
“Humility is important. The day you learn to laugh at yourself is the day you will gain respect from your students. That will be the same day you truly feel good about your decision to enter education.” – Chris Ming
This job is filled with crazy days. You will have the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. You will experience pure anguish and true jubilation, often times in the same year, week, or day. The important thing to always remember is that regardless of whatever else is happening in your life or the lives or your students, you are making a difference. When you interact with those students you are leaving an imprint on their lives; make it a positive one.