A few things I would tell my beginning teacher-self

We are in the process of cleaning out our basement, which has been accumulating “treasures” for almost twenty-five years. Trying to recall what I was thinking by saving some of that stuff is about as easy as trying to figure out what I was thinking as a new teacher back at the same time.

The basement has taken months, many trips up and down the stairs, and is still ongoing. After spending much less time but maybe with similar success in searching for “treasures,” h
ere are a few things I would tell my beginning teacher-self:
  • Take good notes. Anytime you can - during class, immediately after class, or even set aside some time at the end of each day to reflect on what worked and what didn’t.
  • Organize those notes! Make sure you do them in some way that you can easily refer to them when you need to. Take the notes out for each unit at least a week before you begin to give the new ideas time to be incorporated. When you do get a good system. please share it with me because I am still looking for it!
  • Once you have a handle on the content, focus on the delivery/learning. Ask yourself what the best way to present and learn the material may be. Do this constantly. You will improve the process when you ...
  • Learn about learning. Read up on brain research, motivation, drive, creativity, technology in education - anything that may not be directly related to your content area but may help you work with your students. It took me way too long to figure this one out because everything seemed to be going fine. The more you know, the more you realize , but I wasn’t seeing my students with as much experience 
  • Continually ask questions. Even if you are just a little bit unsure, a colleague can be a great help. 
  • Don’t spoon feed students everything - they’ll get too dependent. At the same time, don’t make the learning improbable - they’ll give up.
  • Be flexible. Continually look for feedback (the kind students don’t give verbally or in written form) and adjust your lesson, project, or activity accordingly.
  • Don’t try to be perfect, just try. I know, I know, Yoda said “Do or do not, there is no try” and I get it. But you don’t have The Force even though, at times, it may be like battling that little flying laser shooter with the blaster shield over your eyes. You may get nicked but it’s the only way to figure things out sometimes.
  • Pay attention to your students. I know this seems obvious, but quite often I would be so intent on getting the content “right” that I wasn’t tuned in to the students for the feedback needed to keep them engaged, on task, and learning.

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