Notes to New Teachers: Let It Be A Challenge
If you are one of these "rookies" in the classroom, congratulations. You have mastered your subject matter and you have studied the "methods." Now for the hard part: teaching school.
The trials and tribulations of a first-year teacher were beautifully told in a best-selling novel of the 1960's: Up the Down Staircase, by Bel Kaufman. It features Miss Sylvia Barrett, a young first-year teacher.
Sylvia must cope with undisciplined students, inadequate facilities, and insufficient books and supplies. Whenever she appeals for guidance to her department head, his response is the same: Let it be a challenge to you.
You'll find many challenges facing you as you embark upon your teaching career. All of the problems confronting Sylvia Barrett in the 1960's have hung around to daunt the teachers of the 21st century. If anything, the task has become more difficult due to a changing society. Your students will arrive with many built-in dilemmas that you have little power to solve.
A lot of your success will depend upon how you handle yourself. Don't expect your students to be in awe of you and your expertise and your college degrees. There is no "automatic" respect. Any respect that you can hope to attain will have to be earned.
Keep your cool. Be careful about what makes you angry. Never hold a grudge.
Don't place students in situations in which they must "stand up" to you or lose face. Don't become involved in shouting matches. Handle individual problems one-on-one.
Be firm but fair. Be genuine in your concern. Remember that kids don't care what you think until they think you care.
Finally, be kind and respectful, even in the face of cruelty and insolence. Remember, you are the adult. You are the one who is supposed to know how to behave. There will be many eyes watching you.
Good luck to all of you new graduates with fresh teaching certificates. You have chosen an exciting, demanding, invigorating, exhausting, wonderful profession.
It won't always be fun. There will be critics. You will have heartaches. There will be days when you will envy your friends who went into business or law or computers. But you'll have good days, too: when that boy who threw spitballs tells you that you're not so bad after all. Or when you see a girl's eyes light up when you help her finally grasp a difficult concept. Or when an older student comes back to "visit" and tells you that it was you who gave him the push he needed. That's when you'll know you made the right choice.
Teaching will give you the opportunity to make a difference in hundreds of lives. You will have a chance to leave your mark upon future generations.
Let it be a challenge to you.