By Julie Rine, Minerva Local Education Association
- Parents are not the enemy, but it can feel like it when your first contact with them is concerning a problem. Be proactive. Communicate early and often.
- Call within the first month of school just to say you are enjoying getting to know the student, or to comment on an assignment done particularly well. Parents are shocked by this and they do not forget it.
- Maintain a website with daily assignments, etc. Teacherweb.com is a good site to use and it costs only about $35 per year (tax deductible). My site is teacherweb.com/oh/minervahighschool/julierine if you want to see some of the features. They also have free trial periods.
- Send monthly e-mail updates. Ask for parents’ e-mail addresses the first week of school. I have my students’ parents sign a form indicating that they have read my rules and policies, and I include a spot for them to write in their e-mail address. I also ask them to e-mail me something awesome about their child that I should know. (I give blanks in case they don’t have e-mail, but this way I get a lot of addresses just from their responses to that question.)
- It is NOT about the test scores. Although you will hear about standards and test scores and data over and over again, it is about the students. If you teach with the test in mind, you will lose touch with the students and they will learn nothing. If you teach with the students in mind, you will stay connected to them, they will learn, and the test results will take care of themselves.
- It is your job to care more than the kids do. There will be days when you will get frustrated because it seems that YOU care about your students’ learning more than they do. One teacher told me once that she refused to care more than her students did. But remember, it is your JOB to care more than they do! You are older, and you understand the value of what you are teaching them and how important it is for their futures that they learn it. You get paid to care more than they do. It is your JOB.
- Teaching is your job, but it is NOT your life. Try very hard not to bring school work home with you. This is a hard habit to break once you start.
- Every good teacher needs a Feel Good File. This is where you keep notes from students, parents, principals, etc. telling you how awesome you are. When you are having a truly hard day and feeling as if you are not doing a good job, pull out your Feel Good File and remember that you are not a complete failure at this gig.
- Get a good massage therapist. Splurge once a month or so. It relieves stress (and you WILL be stressed!) and gets rid of toxins (and you WILL be exposed to various forms of cooties!). And, you will deserve it because teaching is the toughest job there is. And while we’re talking about treating yourself, the sooner you realize that high-quality, comfortable shoes are more of a necessity than a luxury, the better. Trust me on this.
- You will not get rich teaching. But unlike any other profession, with teaching, there is always a start and a stop. You can survive until Thanksgiving break. And then you can survive until Christmas, etc. No other profession offers the chance to rejuvenate and refresh as often as teaching. No, you do not get paid for those breaks, but I think they are more valuable than a few extra bucks.
- Remember that everyone behaves reasonably from his or her perspective. This includes parents, students, colleagues, and even administrators. You will have disagreements, and you will sometimes find unbelievable the decisions that other people make. But if you remember this little rule, it might make dealing with those differences of opinion a little less volatile. I once had a principal who preached this concept to us; ironically, I found myself most often having to remember this when trying to accept his actions. However, it is easier to remain professional when you remember that the other person is behaving reasonably from his perspective. You still have a right to disagree, but you might feel less frustrated and heated about the issue if you can keep this in mind.
- Get used to change. Principals change, policies change, standards change, state and federal laws change, and usually this change happens just when you’ve gotten really good at dealing with the way it was. If you remember that it is all about the kids, and preparing them for their futures, the change is more palatable. No matter what changes, kids largely remain the same. They crave love, attention, routine, discipline, smiles, and free days. They want to feel important to you. They might not recognize how valuable the education was that you gave them until years later, and even then, only a few will come back and say thank you. But those moments when they do are priceless, and worth the ever-changing hoops you jumped through to get that paltry paycheck.
- There is always someone willing to listen. Other teachers “get it” like no one else can. Resist the temptation to deal with your stress by yourself. When you are overwhelmed or in need of advice, talk to a veteran teacher, or call your favorite high school teacher. Read a teaching blog. Get involved in your local association or another teacher’s group. Surrounding yourself with people who share your struggles and appreciate your victories will make the highs and lows of this job much easier to endure.
How about you? What tips would you share with new teachers as we start this school year?