Monday, August 20, 2018

What would your letter say? #EdChat

I took some time to reflect on my first few years of teaching and was thinking about the advice I would give myself. Here is the letter I would write to First Year Nick.

Hello Nick,

You do not realize it now, but you are in a for a world class butt-kicking. I'm sorry that sounds so violent, but you are about to feel a level of exhaustion that you did not think would be possible after your first day on the job. Take heart though, you will survive and continue in this great profession 16 years and counting. I wanted to give you a heads up on somethings I did not learn until years later. Some of these might seem like "no-brainers", but you are a first year teacher. You don't know anything.

1. I understand that you spent years in college getting a degree and you are an official, state sanctioned teacher, but you do not know very much about teaching. Here's the thing, that is ok. You are new to the job. It's ok not to know it all and to let people know that you don't know it all. You just have to be open to learning from people that have been around much longer than you.

2. For goodness sake, use your mentor! I know he is a bit loud and seems like he knows everything, but that is because he has been teaching and being awesome at it for a while. Shut up and just listen. He knows things you will not figure out until 5 or 6 years go by. Don't waste the opportunity.

3. The textbook is not the Bible. The stories students need to read are in the textbook, but the questions at the end of the story are not required. Take some time and think of different ways to engage students in the reading.

4. Give the kid a damn pencil and don't make a big deal out of it.

5. Just stop it with the 50 question multiple choice tests. Ask yourself one simple question, "What are you trying to assess?" That needs to be the driving point of your lessons at the end.

6. Be you. The more you that you are, the more comfortable you will be in class and the more comfortable the students will feel.

7. Remember that the students have more than just your class going on in their life. They have lives that are very different than yours and sometimes they just need someone to tell them they understand. Listen more and talk less.

8. Take care of yourself. You need to worry about self care. You are going to carry the emotional baggage of teaching for a very ling time. It add up. You need to make sure there is time for you in your life that allows you to unplug from the school day and relax. It sounds weird, but you will like to garden. Start that soon. It will make you smile.

9. If you know it is busy work, why the heck are you assigning it?

10. Apologize when you are wrong. Your students will appreciate it and respect you for it.

There is so much more I could tell you, but there are some things that you need to experience, try, and fail to get the most out of it.

What would you write to yourself?