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by William Mealey
I have been teaching high school math for 9 years and have a podcast with my co-host Christopher Tudisco. Unprofessional Development. We tell funny stories from the classroom. You know the ones you tell your coworker in the break room or the bar room or the coffee house. Follow us on Twitter as well @unprocast.
- Don’t ever be alone with a student. There needs to be two students present or an open door. Sadly I have driven by students of mine walking home in the rain with no umbrella because I want to keep my job. In this day an age an accusation is career threatening. It is like the preacher who crosses the street twice on his way to buy bread at the grocery store so he isn’t seen walking in front of the strip club.
- Love what you are teaching. There might be a lesson or two during the year that you “have” to teach, but if you don’t love the subject you teach then it will be torture for everyone. On the other hand, if you have a passion and enthusiasm kids will learn to love a subject they previously hated. Excitement and passion is contagious. Spread the joy of (insert your subject here). There are tons of adults whose chosen profession can be traced back to a specific lesson or teacher and how it was taught.
- Do the boring redundant stuff. There is annoying paperwork and meetings and attendance and just plain stuff. You don’t want to be the teacher that comes to the attention of administration because you are in the 20% that is the last to do it and need to be hounded about it. You want to be under the radar when possible. When that survey or form hits your email just knock it out. When grades are due so report cards can be finalized make sure yours are done. At my school we have to fill out an emergency contact form twice a year. Mine hasn’t changed for 9 years, but I fill it out…again to stay off the naughty list. One day you are going to want forgiveness or special permission for something. Maybe it is just a favor. Whatever it is you want administration to see you as responsible and trustworthy. Keep that illusion present in their mind by doing the annoying stuff.
- Say something nice or not at all when asked about other students, teachers or administrators. These questions will come from students, teachers, parents, and administrators. Believe me, there are not nice things to say because you work with imperfect human beings and teach imperfect human beings. There is plenty of stuff people could be saying about you. I admit I have been guilty of this and truly regret it. Don’t bad mouth that teacher that just yells at students and complains every day in the workroom about them. Don’t roll your eyes when you hear the name of that teacher that just shows movies and counts coloring something in the same as a test. Now obviously there are exceptions to this rule, but I’m talking about gossipy stuff not things that need to be said. If there is something that is dangerous or could come back on the school or district then say something. The angry teacher and the movie showing teacher are already on administrations radar, but most likely they can only do so much about it.
- Keep kids safe! This is the most important role of the school. Much more important than educating them. No one cares what they learned if they are injured or worse. When in doubt err on the safe side. If some kid says something or does something questionable it is better to report it and have it dismissed than be blamed for something that could have been prevented.
- Overplan.Make sure you have more than enough to do every day. It is much better to say finish it for homework or we will do the rest tomorrow than we are done you can just sit there for the next ten minutes. They can’t just sit they are kids. This becomes easier with experience and good teachers can improvise at least an extra 20–30 minutes when for some unexpected reason you’ve got that kind of time. Don’t give kids idle time. Even if it is an improvised class discussion about current events or sharing a story from your childhood fill the time.