05 June 2012

Second-year Thoughts (Smattering #2)

I just finished my second year of teaching, and I figured I'd share my second-year wisdom with the three of you that read this blog. These are definitely not polished thoughts. I apologize.

1. I don't get paid a lot, but I get paid just enough
I'm going to use bullets to summarize this thought:
  • I only feel bad for myself when I compare my pay to that of others, so don't do that.
  • "The three best parts of teaching are June, July, and August." You've probably heard that quote before. It is just a joke, of course, because I love teaching and I start to miss it, but I have to admit that having these long breaks is amazing. If I worked the same schedule as other professionals, I would demand a LOT more money.
  • I don't want pity, but I don't mind discounts from retailers that offer teacher discounts.
That concludes my bullet list. Thank you.

2. Kids are resilient
Maybe it's because they're used to people yelling at them that still love them (i.e. parents, siblings), but one thing you have to applaud kids for is their resilience. They must have developed a perception for love behind the scolding. Maybe the teacher actually has to love the student in order for the student to be able to bounce back.

3. You have to be resilient, too
You can't please them all. Some kids will simply not like your class, or you. They might loudly talk about how great some other teacher is that teaches your same subject. They might write bad things on your desk or wall when you're not looking. Brush it off. Be proactive where you can if there's something you could do better, and move on.

4. 'Teaching' is a very small part of being a teacher
I do love the opportunity to explain how things work, but it turns out that's a pretty small part of teaching. The other, larger parts, include (but are not limited to): organization, grading, babysitting (let's be honest), and most of all, simply working with the age group. And then the act of 'teaching,' you'll hear from just about anyone, is more like 'guiding.' (It kills me to say such a cliché thing.) Kids need to discover things on their own in order for learning to take place. It's almost like you have to trick them into discovering what you want them to discover.

5. Listen to the quiet majority just as much as you listen to the loud minority
There are some periods with a higher concentration of turds than other periods. You'll be tempted to disregard the entire class because of those few rotten kids. Don't.

6. A small, genuine compliment goes a long way
In fact, just knowing a kid's name and using it goes a long way. If a kid knows that you know that he exists, he'll feel a little bit more responsibility to turn in good work, I believe. And then if you have a genuine nice thought pop into your head, share it.

7. Just enjoy it
I'll use another bulleted list to describe my thoughts on this:
  • On the first day of school I tell students that one of my favorite things to do is take away cell phones. I tell them I want their phones to ring, I want them to text, because then I'll get to take it away. Whether or not it actually prevents illicit cell phone use doesn't matter, because I really do enjoy taking them away.
  • Math and essays sometimes come up in class, and both are met with a lot of whining, so I learned to enjoy that. I love writing 'essay' on the board and hearing the collective moan come from the students. The same comes when I mention that an assignment has some math in it. I tell them I'd sympathize if I didn't think it was good for them.
  • This might be bad general advice, but I love making fun of students. I do it out of love, of course, and I get as much as I give. 
  • Kids are hilarious; you don't get this kind of entertainment anywhere else. Sometimes what they do should be caught and stopped, but other times you just have to laugh and admire their creativity.

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