Memo to new teachers: Congratulations! You have worked your way up to the front of the room. You now hold the exalted title of "Teacher."
However, there is no time to bask in the glory of your position. School is underway and the "crush" is on. Already you may be overwhelmed with forms, reports, lists, lesson plans, and endless meetings. In the maelstrom of the first few days of school, it's easy to become discouraged.
The last thing you need right now is another list, but perhaps these time-tested tips will help you more smoothly navigate through your first year of teaching.
1. Be sure to greet your students at the beginning of each day or class period. Think of yourself as the host of a variety show with a live audience. "Good morning, everyone! Today we will meet a famous American author, learn how to use semi-colons, and maybe write a haiku or two!"
2. As the host of the show, be aware of your timing. Don 't let the bell pull the plug on your program. Even if you didn't have time for everything you planned, stop the show in time to have a quick review and to make the next assignment.
3. Speaking of the bell, don't let it rule your class. Tell the students that the bell is a reminder for you. It is not the signal for them to jump out of their seats and bound from the room. They do that only when you say so.
4. Make a seating chart. Feel free to shift students around like chess pieces. The seating chart is one of the most underrated teacher tools. It helps you remember names, but, more importantly, it gives you a powerful control over behavior. Let's face it: there are people in this world who should never sit together.
5. Learn the names of your students, of course. But go beyond names. Try to know a little more. Be aware of your students' school activities, hobbies, and special talents. Get "plugged in" to school events. Know who is in sports or band or science fair. Remember this: Kids won't care what you think until they think you care.
6. Establish rules of behavior and stick to them. Post the rules in a prominent place. Remember, each rule needs a consequence. Be firm but fair in your follow-through.
7. Forget what they used to say about not smiling before Christmas. Smile early and often. However, don't do anything until you have perfected "The Look." That's the icy, intimidating stare that all veteran teachers have mastered. They can go from a smile to "The Look" more quickly than Jekyll became Hyde. This steely-eyed glare is worth a thousand words (like "stop talking, stop tapping the kid in front of you, and stop rolling your pencil down your desktop.")
8. You are already aware of the fact that student behavior, usually called "classroom discipline," is the biggest challenge for any teacher. This is a complicated subject, because so much depends on individual teacher traits and personality. Some people are blessed with innate teacher skills, i.e. total omniscience and eyes in the back of the head. Others have to work hard at the task. The key comes from Aretha Franklin: R-E-S-P-E-C-T. The students should respect you and each other. It's vital, too, that you show respect for your students, even in the face of disrespect from them. Remember, you are the adult in the classroom. When it comes to behavior, you are the model as well as the teacher.
9. Make your lessons exciting for you. That way, at least one person in the room will be interested. Your enthusiasm will be contagious. Never forget that you make the weather in the room. You can bring the sunshine of joy and enthusiasm for learning, or you can create clouds of negativity, anger, or boredom. The classroom climate is under your control.
10. In the confusion and chaos of day-to-day school, it's easy to lose sight of the important work you are about. Remember, new teachers, that you are engaged in the profession that teaches all other professions. Work hard. Do your best. Don't worry about making mistakes. You'll make plenty of them, but keep in mind the Latin proverb, "By learning you will teach; by teaching you will learn."
This above all: Never lose sight of the magnitude of your chosen career. By your words, your actions, by the very person you are, you have the opportunity to make a difference in young lives.