After being out of the classroom for almost three years, I’ve had time to reflect on the lessons it took me nine years to figure out. These are the things I wish someone would have told me when I was a new high school teacher. I’m not sure I would have listened but just in case I can help someone else; I thought I should share these tidbits.
1. There will always be a few students that drive you absolutely nuts. Teachers are human, too. Out of 90 kids you see daily, there will be at least one that rubs you the wrong way. Sometimes personalities clash. You may not be able to see through their stubbornness and random acts of teen angst while teaching the Bill of Rights but they will be the same kids that come back and visit you time and time again until they graduate. They will be the same ones that you will keep in touch with throughout their adult lives. There are the only two words of advice that I can give you. Tough love.
2. Your heart will break for some of the kids you see every day. Know there is nothing you can do about their home lives. Just kill them with kindness and love them while they are in your room. Give them a place where they know what is expected of them and how they can succeed. Call them on their B.S., poke them if they are sleeping in class, and most of all, hold them accountable.
3. Sometimes, you will wonder what the heck you are doing. That’s totally okay. As a 9th grade World History teacher, I knew that ancient civilizations didn’t matter- still doesn’t (sorry fellow history nerds)….but team work, personal growth, and self-reflection does matter. Those skills will transfer beyond the four walls of your classroom (and the standardized tests). Don’t be locked in to Hammurabi’s code. Don’t know what that is? Google it.
4. High school students are honest. Brutally honest. Grow some thick skin. Sometimes their actions have nothing to do with you at all but what happened in the hallway before class. Keep it all in perspective. Grow some thick skin.
5. If you don’t engage them, you will lose them. No, I’m not talking about providing them nonstop entertainment but I am saying is respect your audience. Is it relevant to their lives? If the answer is, “No, I’m teaching this because its a standard,” I would argue that your lesson plan could use some revisions.
Most of these tips can’t be find in educational theory textbooks but they will come in handy when trying to keep your sanity in those first few “fly by the seat of your pants” years. Best of luck navigating the toughest, but most rewarding job in the world! Let me know if I can help in any way!
Fellow educators, what did you learn in the first few years of teaching that you wish someone would have told you? Can’t wait to hear your lessons learned!