Over the past year I have mentored several new teachers. They are a great wealth of knowledge and really good questions. I thought I would compile my top five pieces of advice for new teachers.
1. Phone Numbers
Never give out your cellphone number or home number to a parent. Parents can reach you on your school board email address (if permitted) or call the school and leave a message for you to call them back. You are a professional, and must separate your work information from your personal information. I do not have the home numbers of other professionals in my life (doctor, dentist, lawyer, accountant).
2. Raising Your Voice
Unless the classroom is on fire, or someone is dying, it is not appropriate to yell at your students. Find other ways to get their attention, or discipline them for their behaviour. It is much more effective to speak to a disruptive student personally, than centring them out in front of the whole class. I find that using a consistent attention cue works. I use a count down, but my students also know I use a silent countdown with my hands. This is particularly effective if you happen to loose your voice. Wait teachers never get sick right?
3. Sick Days
A common misconception among new teacher is that the class will not survive with out them. This is not true. I promise you that your students will survive and be excited to see you upon your return. It is a lot of work to prepare for time away from the classroom, BUT your physical, mental and emotional health is valuable and you cannot be on your "A game" for your students, if you are ill.
New teachers either ineffectively over-plan or under-plan as they do not have enough experience to know how long activities generally take. Us veteran teachers have an uncanny ability to judge time without looking at a clock. I recently did this at a family get together and really freaked people out at how I could reliably estimate the amount of time that had passed. Not to worry, you too will soon gain this uncanny ability to tell time. New teachers should over plan their days to ensure that class time is used to its maximum capacity. Over planning does not mean staying up until 2:00 am trying to find more information. It means ensure you have a back up plan - technology will always fail, inevitably while you are being evaluated - and have a few review type activities (making study notes, centres, extra practise sheets, quiz games) that can be pulled out to use up time.
5. Not Getting To Know Your Students
Curriculum is important, but your students will learn more effectively if they feel that you know them and care about their interests, passions, and hobbies. I start and end each class by greeting each class at the door with a good morning, happy [insert holiday, special day, made up day here], have a great night. As students are getting their books, papers, pencils, entrance pass/bell work organized, I walk around the classroom and make a point to speak to different students about something I noticed, or what to find out about them.
Ok just one more rant ....
6. Seating Plans
Seating plans are not optional. You are the teacher and must ensure each student has the best possible opportunities to learn. This means using all of the tools available to you. One of the most powerful tools is the seating plan.
I tell my students, "This is not a long term commitment, it is a seating plan that will change frequently, but it is your job is be the best person you can be during this arrangement."
Click here to see how I set my classroom up for success.
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