January 6, 2013

Ten Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Became a Teacher

Today I was talking with a sweet friend about possibly becoming a teacher in an inner-city setting. I have never taught inner-city, but I have taught. From kindergarten in a village school to high school in the United States.

Our discussion about expectations made me think back a lot to my own experiences.

Here are the Top Ten Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Became a Teacher

1. There are two modes of your life. Teacher mode (during the school week or school year) and Vacation mode (during any vacation or even weekend where no work is hanging over you). People who love you dearly will recognize these modes more readily than even you can.

2. You Never "Arrive". Teaching involves constant learning. Unless you are the rare exception that gets to teach one subject to one class and you get to repeat it all of the time (which would get boring), you will always be challenged to teach to different levels, abilities, subjects, themes etc. You are always learning and always challenged.

3. You never leave school. You should, but you don't (And your significant other will beg you to all the time). In bed on a Sunday night you don't think "Ah... rest time. Night night."

Instead you think,"So first period I will have to make sure that student A doesn't sit near student B because I see a fight coming and I have GOT to get that e-mail out about ________ (insert the extra thing you're in charge of), and during conference I have to fill out that paper work and file some things and will my lesson even work for fourth period?????"

Forget "Night night" y'all. That's the kind of thing that Vacation mode gets to say.

*Unless you're a man. If you're a man, disregard this entire list. Somehow your Y chromosome makes none of this apply to you and you'll be all, "Night night y'all, I don't even KNOW what subjects I'm teaching tomorrow but it's time for some shut eye...." as you drift off into a snore-filled night of joyful slumber.  Sexist but true (in my opinion- but perhaps I just always had VERY laid back male coworkers).

4. Kids are more gracious than you expect. When you really really screw up and need their forgiveness- you'll be amazed that really, they're waiting there with it.

5. Kids are more child-like than you expect. Deep down, even when they're all dealing with horrible issues, they really are all just wanting to have a good day at school and wishing they could go home and have no worries.

6. Never assume anything. I made this mistake for years. Never assume that they learned X, Y or Z in years passed (even if YOU were the one teaching them!). Always review. We all need reminders- it's just kind anyway and leaves you a lot less frustrated and disappointed.

7. Always be prepared. Even if it's a list of easy review games up your sleeve or a fun short story to read. Always have something you can turn to.

8. Explain from the bottom up. You're always way above someone's head (and they're drowning in it and not saying anything) and you're also always way below someone's ability. Diversify. But mainly, explain from the bottom up. Even if it's a gifted group in a high excelling classroom. Never start at the top, talking all complicated. After all, in the end you're only trying to look good when you do that.

9. Keep It Simple Stupid (is that a copyrighted phrase? I wonder...). Seriously though, keep it simple. Take breaks, tell jokes, play games, do reviews. Give commands one step at a time. People are horrible listeners whether they're 30 or 5.

10. Love your kids and try to enjoy them. The most important thing they need is a happy and sane teacher. After all, this is the majority of your day and they are your "colleagues". You set the tone of the atmosphere in your room day after day. Make it a good one!

What is something you wish you had known when you started in your field/parenting etc.? 

Looking back we've learned a lot!


The Teacher said...

Inner city has always been my goal. From watching my mother love her environment to teaching summer school in the inner city during college and wishing I could reconnect with those students, I love the idea of teaching inner city.
I definitely realize how exhausting it is, student teaching did not prepare me for that. I remember you telling me once that during the summer you're house is always clean and you can be super wife, but during the school year somethings slide- I completely understand that now and I don't even have a house or husband ( how do you do it). Such sage insight!

Jennifer Mykytiuk said...

I agree about the male thing! My husband is totally like that! He doesn't plan lessons months in advance (maybe a day if lucky) and he never thinks about work at home. I am opposite! Ugh! I guess I could learn a thing or two from him because he is still a great teacher!

The Reeds said...

Dev'n you were an amazing student teacher! But I agree, student teaching can't prepare you for your own classroom. And Jenifer isn't the gender difference crazy?! :)

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