I am nowhere near being an "experienced" teacher. In fact, I've really only been "in the classroom" for about three months for my student teaching placement. But, what I am is a "learning" teacher. Everyday, I learn something new about myself...my students...and about teaching as a whole. After some car-rides home that involve a heated phone call rant about my frustrations and some days where I head home singing, there's at least one conclusion I've made:
They just don't tell you some things in college about being a teacher. Sure, they teach you how to write ridiculously long and completely unreasonably detailed lesson plans. They make sure we know every type of assessment on this great green earth. They even teach us some super funky (and wildly academic) clapping patterns used to get the attention of your little learners. But, I have to admit that there are some things that they miss.
So, here I go. Welcome to Teaching In The Real World 101 with Professor S.
1. A teacher is much more than just a teacher. A teacher is, in fact, a coach, a mentor, a guidance counselor, a parent, a rule-enforcer, an organizer, a collector, a judge, and a mediator. In short, teachers are ring leaders in a circus of various scenarios. Some of these ring leaders may be leading kindergarteners who are learning that it's inappropriate to wipe your boogers on your friend. Others may be ring leaders of per-pubescent girls and boys who are discovering the opposite gender no longer has cooties. Either way, every classroom presents 20-some (or 30-some) students and the teacher is in charge of making sure they can pass the test and make a friend and be safe and healthy and mostly happy.
2. The instructions prior to a lesson are, in fact, its own lesson. Although kids are budding minds of independent thinking and endless possibilities, they tend to need lots and lots and lots of explanation. I learned this the hard way.
3. Points or cheeseballs or a purple star on homework are like striking gold for children. The way I see it, kids can use some inspiration or incentives to do exceptionally well. Rewarding a student with a silly point to their ClassDojo "monster" will completely make their day. Just imagine if adults were like this...
4. Let your students know you are human. Tell them silly stories about your weekend. If you trip in front of them, own up to it. It's okay. If you write on the board that 2x3=5, allow them to tell you that you made a mistake. Teachers are humans. Humans are goofy. Humans make mistakes. Humans build relationships and build a rapport with those around them.
5. Respect them and they will respect you in return...eventually. I have two weeks left in my 5th grade classroom and I think I've made a breakthrough. All semester, I have maintained my utmost respect for my students. In the beginning, it was rough. They were labeled the "worst class in the school" by another teacher and, to them, I was a stranger. You can imagine how my first few weeks (or months) were. Finally, with my continued respect and attempts to get to know them on a personal level, I've made a breakthrough. Sometimes it's hard, but sometimes kids need to know that you're their support system and that you respect them. Do it and respect will be clear.
As I mentioned before, I am nowhere near calling myself an experienced teacher. I know I have tons to learn and I look forward to it. But for now, I stand by these five lessons.