Friday was the last day of the third nine weeks, which means I have just nine weeks left of the school year. I can not believe it. It truly has gone so fast. I do not exaggerate when I say that I have learned this year far more than I have taught (or at least more than my students have learned, based on the grades I submitted on Friday!). Here are a few things that I wish someone had told me before I started teaching:
1. Its not enough to review the rules and expectations only the first day of school. I thought I had done a really great job by reviewing the rules and having the parents and students sign it. I did it again at the start of the new semester. Not enough. I am going to post them, give a quiz on them and then review them DAILY for the first month of school. Then there will be regular reviews of them throughout the first semester until it is drilled in their little heads!
2. Start with incentives from Day One. I only started this about a month into the school year. Incentives have been my savior this year.
3. Recognize that once a confrontation has started, I've already lost. Do not engage. Period. I am learning not to explain, justify, or God forbid, get defensive about anything. What I say goes in the classroom. Argue if you want, but I'm not listening. This rule also applies to speaking with parents and administrators.
4. Kids love attention, positive or negative--give them tons of positive attention and they won't work so hard to get negative attention. This is difficult, especially when the kids do everything they can to be completely unlikable. I meet them at the door every day, greet them by name, compliment them, say I am glad to seem them, ask how their weekend was, etc. I mother them constantly. Believe it or not, they want this and the more I do it, the less trouble I get out of them.
5. Never, ever give out grades during class time. I just made this rule for myself last week. First off, if you do it once, you will forever be interrupted in the middle of teaching with "Miz Nilknarf, can I see my grade?" Second, if they don't like the grade, it gives them an opportunity to pontificate for the class's benefit. From now on, the rule is "You can find out your grade any time by logging onto your student account or by getting a pass to see me during study hall."
6. Don't take work home if you can help it and don't work beyond contract hours. Make the most of your time at school. Work through lunch if you need to. Grade papers during tests. Use your planning time wisely. Check out the Internet for awesome lesson plans before you waste time making your own. Ask other teachers to share theirs (my coworkers are awesome about this). Walk out that door when your contract hours are over and forget about school until the next morning. Don't bring work home, don't call parents from home if you can help it (this only puts you in a crappy mood if the conversation doesn't go well), and by all means don't check your email.
7. Don't take anything personally. This has been difficult for me. I work hard to create good lesson plans. Unlike many teachers I have seen, I am a dynamic teacher. I work the classroom--I put on a show! It can be disheartening, to say the least, when someone sleeps through my class or completely bombs a test on something I have worked hard to teach. That said, I can only do so much. If they don't learn, its not because I haven't given 100%, its because they haven't.
8. I have the best job in the world. Even at this school, with these kids, and questionable administrators, this job can not be beat. I get to be creative, meet all kinds of people, teach a subject that I love and work an amazing schedule. I am home with my kids every afternoon, every snow day, and most days when they are off from school. While the rest of the world is at work this summer, I'll be sleeping in, going to the pool, and getting a paycheck for it! I also have great benefits, retirement, and I can work anywhere in the country.
This year has kicked my ass, but I am coming back better and wiser next year!