Adult Learning

The New Teacher Smell

I love to see new teachers join our ranks. In a profession that is being left behind to make more money working at the local 7-11, it’s still good to see fresh faces believing in what we do.
The teachers fresh from student teaching, wearing their classroom key around their neck like a badge of honor that defines them is always precious to see on report day.
Their energy is contagious. Their smiles are irresistible. Also, their classrooms-oh my. I’m amazed by the stuff they’ve accumulated already.
So new teachers, here are a few tips from a veteran teacher who has absolutely no filter or self-control after two decades of teaching, so take them however you want.
The custodians and secretaries are your BEST FRIENDS. Understand that they know EVERYTHING that goes on or is supposed to go on or will go on twenty years from now in your building. They don’t have to refer you to someone else or call someone else to get information. They KNOW. Do everything in your power to keep them happy. Have you seen them in action? They are like magical beings with ten arms! I’ve watched one talk on the phone, take a temperature, sign in a parent, page a teacher, buzz a person into the building, send an email, fax and handwrite a note – SIMULTANEOUSLY! Bring them donuts, gift cards, and full flasks. They are heroes and will do whatever they can to help you and keep the school running like a freshly oiled machine. Respect them and their positions.
Less (when decorating your class) is more. This tidbit is coming from a teacher whose room probably needs a visit from Hoarders. However, I can’t throw anything away because you just don’t know when you may run out of paper towel rolls or bottle caps. Think about those Amazon Prime boxes that you have stacked like a Tetris tower in one of your closets (that your significant other never opens) full of all those cutesy classroom things.  Most will end up in a poorly marked storage box on a shelf and you will mentally tell yourself you will remember where those items are, but you won’t, because of “teacher brain”.  Then when you need them you won’t be able to find them so you order more from Amazon and by the time it’s all said and done you will end up with 500 popsicle sticks and more wiggly eyes than you know what to do with – and a very small paycheck.
Do you notice those classroom designs on Pinterest boards that you’ve so carefully constructed? Notice anything that’s missing in those photos? KIDS! And it’s not because internet privacy papers haven’t been signed. It’s because most of those classrooms are not suited for children. In theory, it all sounds great that the blue markers go in the blue bin and the glue bottles get tightened and put in the proper box. However, in a “real classroom” that’s not happening! Those really cute sitting areas with the flexible seating that is staged so happily. It’s like your breasts after you have a baby – nothing ever goes back to where it first originated and it just worsens as the year goes on! We are dealing with CHILDREN here- messy, inquisitive, valuable, developing, precious CHILDREN.
All they want is a teacher who will spend time with them, teach them as they are developing and occasionally pitch a fort tent or bring in an empty refrigerator box to play in. Our kids are wired to learn. Learning doesn’t have to be taught to them. That’s what they do innately. Put your energy towards what you want your students to learn, not keeping a Pinterest worthy classroom. Keep it simple and functional. Too much is overwhelming for everyone. And believe me, you do not want students walking into your classroom with pinball eyes because everything is overstimulating to them. Pinball eyes become pinball bodies and twenty-eight of those little gems will cause you to lose your mind.
Finally, BREATHE and do it often. Are you lost in the paperwork? Breathe. Does your Smartboard not work? Breathe. Do you have lots of below-level kids? Breathe. Bobby has climbed up into the window again and won’t come down? Breathe. There is truly power in the breath. Really. Breathe, then figure out a solution. Ask questions, approach conflict and challenge with a clear head. Seek wisdom from other teachers. And for the love of God, USE YOUR OFFICE CALL BUTTON!
Always remember that you are only ONE person. No is an acceptable answer. Protect your individuality. You cannot solve every challenge on your own. Sometimes you need the help of other teachers, your colleagues. Collectively we have so much wisdom to share. Don’t isolate yourself. Put any pride aside and whine like ALL of us have at one time or another. Just make sure that after you whine you get busy fixing whatever is wrong.
Now, go forth! Make the difference you’ve always dreamed of and may you have an amazing year of growth in your students, but more importantly in yourself!
(And keep your alcohol intake to a minimum. That’s a huge chunk of your paycheck that can go toward more pencils that will never be found!)

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