My niece will graduate this weekend with a degree in elementary education. I am so proud of her, and happy to have another teacher in the family. I have been so blessed to truly love what I do for a living. I hope that my niece will feel the same about her teaching career, when she looks back one day.
I gave her some (unsolicited) advice based on my 26 years in the classroom:
1. Don’t be afraid to PUT DOWN THE TEXTBOOK. It is a tool. Your whole class should not revolve around it. They can pull in anyone off of the street to read a text to children and have them answer the chapter questions. You have been trained to do more than that, so do it:)
2. Try hard to learn the kids names before they come to you – even if you have to borrow a yearbook and study names and faces – this gives you an instant edge and connection.
3. Be firm and consistent, yet don’t be afraid to have fun with them. Learning should be fun! It should inspire!
4. On as many days as possible, greet each and every one of your students at the door.
5. If you work in a Christian school, allow the kids to do intentions for prayers often, as it helps you to get to know what their concerns are.
6. Try to write a “happy note” to each of them during the first nine weeks. Accentuate the positive, and show them that you’ve noticed something good about them/their behavior. That can go a long way!
7. With regard to parent conferences, be patient with parents. I told her that to a parent, their child is their whole world. Try to put yourself in their shoes.
8. With regard to people passing judgement on inexperience – It is not a “sin” to be young – or to not have your own children yet. (I remember being upset when I was 23 and in my first year of teaching to have parents tell me that I couldn’t understand because I did not have children of my own. I thought that was absurd – I had been trained, and had graduated with honors after all! Of course, having my own children didn’t teach me how to teach, but it gave me a whole new perspective that certainly helped me to be a better teacher.) It all comes with time:)
9. Don’t give homework just to give homework. Did you like doing hours upon hours of homework as a kid? Of course not! Try to remember what it was like to be a student, and don’t torture unnecessarily!
10. Treat the kids with respect, and 9 times out of 10, they will treat you with respect. Don’t yell. Then, if you ever do have to raise your voice, they will really pay attention!
Here are some of my favorite quotes about teaching:
“IT IS THE SUPREME ART OF THE TEACHER TO AWAKEN JOY IN CREATIVE EXPRESSION AND KNOWLEDGE.”
— ALBERT EINSTEIN
“THE MEDIOCRE TEACHER TELLS. THE GOOD TEACHER EXPLAINS. THE SUPERIOR TEACHER DEMONSTRATES. THE GREAT TEACHER INSPIRES.”
— WILLIAM A. WARD
EDUCATION IS NOT THE FILLING OF A PAIL, BUT THE LIGHTING OF A FIRE. – WILLIAM BLAKE