35 Bits of Advice for First Year Teachers

First Year Teachers

 

School will be starting again before we know it. I know, I know. No one wants to think about it. Sadly, school supplies are appearing on store shelves and thoughts are already turning to back-to-school.

I remember the summer before I first started teaching. I had just graduated college and I was so incredibly excited. I think I thought I was going to save the world the moment I entered the classroom.

I just knew that every lesson I prepared was going to be amazing and that my students were going to do so well that they would destroy achievement data.

And then I couldn’t find a job.

School started and students and teachers went back—and I didn’t.

I started the school year substitute teaching. And I hated every second of it. I didn’t find any joy at all in being in a classroom that wasn’t mine. It was a serious emotional challenge.

A few weeks into the school year I was called into a great high school to substitute for a teacher who had passed away (tragic story. He had a heart attack one afternoon and quickly passed. He was far too young for such a thing). After several weeks of subbing, I was asked to stay in the position permanently.

While the circumstances were tragic, I was overjoyed at the opportunity to be able to be a “real” teacher.

I learned a lot that first year. More than I think I’ve learned any year since.

So if you’re about to enter the classroom for the very first time as a “real” teacher, here’s a bit of advice.

  1. You are not going to save the world your first year. But you can certainly try.
  2. Many of your lessons and activities are going to fail. Be okay with that. Be a good example to your students and pick up the pieces and try again.
  3. You’ll be a completely different teacher in a few years. Don’t get used to who you are now.
  4. Be willing to adapt. Flexibility and adaptation are the name of the game your first year.
  5. I once had a teacher I very much respected tell me that because I taught high school I shouldn’t smile until after Christmas. I smiled on day one and all the days after.
  6. Decide if you want to be respected or liked. The two are not always mutually exclusive, but you’re not there to be your students’ friend.
  7. Don’t let your students call you by your first name. Ever. I don’t care if you are 22 and they are 18. Or 5.
  8. Keep your mouth shut. (This bit of advice from my hubby who has been teaching for 15 years). New teachers should be quick to listen and slow to share their “brilliant” ideas. Share when appropriate, but don’t try to re-write the book on teaching.
  9. (Along with #8…) You’re not a mentor yet. Don’t try to tell seasoned teachers how to do their jobs.
  10. Never talk about having a “teacher toolbox” when referring to teaching strategies (also from my hubby).
  11. Don’t wear anything with an apple or a pencil or a bus on it. Ever.save the world
  12. Dress appropriately. Dress up really classy on Mondays. It sets the tone for the week.
  13. Don’t let your students get away with cheating. Ever. (Refer to #6).
  14. Remember that you’re not just teaching subject matter—your personality is a reflection of your character.
  15. Don’t over-volunteer. Sometimes being an eager beaver can get you hours of extra work outside of the school day, and you’ll need that time for planning and grading, etc.
  16. Don’t gossip. You have no idea who is friends with whom on your faculty or what history they have. Be classy and keep your mouth shut and your opinions about people to yourself.
  17. Respect the administration. You don’t have to like their policies or policy changes, but respect the process and the people behind the process. Those folks work hard.
  18. Get a mentor. Sometimes you will be assigned one, but if that mentor is not helpful or you aren’t given one, attach yourself to a seasoned teacher and ask for advice. Lots of advice.
  19. Be humble. If something is working in your classroom, share appropriately and be ready for seasoned teachers to help you adapt it to make it better. (Refer to #8).
  20. Have school spirit. No matter what age-group you teach, be proud of your school. If you aren’t, the kids won’t be, either.
  21. Don’t eat lunch at your desk. Get into the cafeteria, make friends with other teachers at the “teacher table” and watch the dynamic of your students as they interact with each other. You can learn a ton about student personalities and relationships over lunch.
  22. Don’t be afraid to report something that needs to be reported. Whether student abuse or teacher impropriety, don’t sit on it if it’s serious.
  23. Don’t blog about being an awesome teacher. You aren’t yet.teaching
  24. Find the happy medium between being excited about and dreading professional development. Some teachers get a little too happy about it (I’m going to save the world with these strategies for my teacher toolbox!) while others act like sitting through professional development might be reason to have the coroner on hand. PD can be cool. You might not use everything presented to you, but you can learn something—if you try.
  25. Love your students. Even the ones that are difficult to love. They deserve it and they might not be getting it at home.
  26. Be fair. Never play favorites with students.
  27. Don’t show too many movies. If movies are your go-to, you aren’t creative enough.
  28. Never leave your students alone in the classroom. Chaos will ensue.
  29. Never use profanity in front of your students. Set high standards for yourself and your students will follow.
  30. Good classroom management comes from being wise enough to know when to be firm and when to laugh. (Refer to #6.) This takes practice.
  31. Never be afraid to apologize to a student.
  32. A student who has wronged you but is forgiven will never forget it.
  33. Students like “fun” teachers. They respect and remember the ones who push them to their greatest potential.
  34. Use caution when eating homemade goodies gifted to you from a student.
  35. Be grateful—for your job, for your mentor, and for any seasoned teacher and administrator who is willing to help you. Someday you can repay it to a first year teacher.

Be excited about your first year as a teacher. Give it your all. Smile a lot. But most of all, be willing to learn. Your goal in your career should always be to be a better teacher than you were last year. 30 years of that will produce some amazing results.

Share with me: Seasoned teachers, what advice would you add to this list?

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My Super Fun and Exciting News!

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Well, folks, I’ve been teasing about it for days, so here it is– my big news!

I am super crazy excited to announce that I have signed a contract with Thomas Nelson publishers to collaborate on a writing project with none other than the amazing Max Lucado!

If you’ve read Before Amen: The Power of a Simple Prayer by Max Lucado (released last year) then you are familiar with his idea of “pocket prayers.” The whole book is about how prayer is a heartfelt conversation with God– that you can invite him in without the flowery words or flashy show, and God shows up. It’s about being free to connect with God in a powerful and simplistic way, without feeling like you need a big vocabulary or a “wish list” a mile long.

Coordinating with this book, Thomas Nelson will be releasing a series of prayer books geared toward specific groups (moms, dads, military, friends, etc.)–six books in all.

I am very honored and delighted to say that my name will be on the cover of Pocket Prayers for Teachers, releasing in May of 2016, just in time for Teacher Appreciation Week! (Is that divine timing, or what??) 🙂

Obviously this is outside of my usual writing genre (I’m usually writing fiction of the romantic, sometimes historical, sometimes contemporary, sometimes YA variety). However, if there are two things I know a lot about, it’s teaching and prayer.

As I work on this prayer book, God is reminding me of so many things– including just how much he loves teachers and what an amazing mission opportunity he’s given each teacher within their own school setting.  DSC02709

To say that I am honored to be working on anything associated with Max Lucado would be a gross understatement, as I have read and admired his work for years and years.

My heart is super grateful for this opportunity and I’m looking forward to what lies ahead on this writing journey. There’s never a dull moment and God is always doing things that surprise me. He’s amazing and awesome like that.

Don’t worry– I’ll be reminding you (a lot) to pick up a copy of this prayer book for all the teachers in your life closer to the release date.

Thanks for your support, friends!

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When Hatred Becomes Necessary In America

hatred in America

What a weird few weeks it has been in America. Genders and races are changing right in front of the whole world. There has been tragedy and a response to said tragedy that has dwarfed even the events themselves and created a debate all its own. There have been some very important and remarkable Supreme Court decisions. Politics and emotion have collided and created a hurricane of debate about very serious issues.

And among it all, the word hate keeps being thrown around, whipped from both sides, hurled toward anyone who would dare disagree with the “mainstream.”

“Don’t hate.”

“That’s hate speech.”

“You’re hateful.”

“A hate crime.”

“Keep your hate to yourself.”

“Stop hatin’.”

“Haters gonna hate.”

“Your opinion is proof of your hate.”

Some of this hate is expected, born of disbelief and anger; born of revulsion to crimes that are unimaginable and viewpoints that are unbelievable.

I’m not one to shy away from a political or religious debate. I never have been. But I’m learning now how to make my opinions and views work for more effective change in the hearts of people rather than just temporary agreement in an argument. I like my opinions. I stick to my convictions. I’m not backing down and I’m okay with voicing my dissent.

But even if I end up shaking my head in bewilderment at your viewpoint, my opinion is proof only of my disagreement. And I am 100% capable of disagreeing without any hatred at all, as most people of faith are. Hatred is an emotion. Opinions should be based also on fact, whether that fact is drawn from scientific evidence, historical proof, or religious belief (which, to many, is fact).

So please, don’t mistake my dissenting opinion for hate. I. don’t. hate. you.

But I’ll tell you what I do hate—I hate sin.

I hate the way it twists and turns, weaving is way into willing hearts. I hate the way it defiles and deceives, and I hate the way it manifests itself in evil acts that serve to divide and destroy.

I hate how it abolishes tradition. I hate how it revises what is allowable. I hate how it murders and destroys families, leaving nothing but sadness and devastation it its wake.

I hate what it’s doing to our country, our neighborhoods, our relationships. I hate what it does to me.

And I think it’s 100% okay to hate sin. In fact, it’s encouraged. Even the Bible talks about how God himself hates sin.

We need to hate it, but before we can hate it, we need to know what it is.

“People are afraid of what they don’t understand.” How many times have you heard that or a variation of it?

Ladies and gents, you need to understand sin. (The more you read about and understand Christ, the more you will be able to recognize sin).You need to not be afraid to stand up against it. And you need to hate it. You need to hate it with the joy of knowing that one day it will be destroyed.

But until that time when sin is finally obliterated, what do we do? What about when something happens that walks all over our moral convictions, heats our emotional coil and threatens to spew words from our angry and frustrated mouths?

There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers. –Psalm 6:16

Proof right there from the scripture that God himself hates much of what has happened in this country over the last few weeks. Plug those events right in.

How have you added to it?

Sure, you didn’t pull a trigger inside of a church and spill innocent blood (in fact, like most of America, you were probably deeply saddened and repulsed that such a thing could happen). You didn’t spout racist propaganda, placing yourself above others. You didn’t sit on the Supreme Court. You didn’t issue court rulings or devise the very court cases that brought the rulings.

But did your reactions leading up to and after these events add to the hatred listed above?

Did you lie to support your side of the argument? Perhaps you pulled at half-truths just to feel like the victor?

Were you conceited and disdainful, filled with self-righteousness because of your views?

Did you run headlong into a conversation full of nasty words and vitriol?

Have you stirred the pot, making the angry, heated words flow even faster rather than cooling the situation with words that heal and encourage?

You don’t have to agree with the other side of the argument.

Once again, disagreement is not hatred and disagreeing with sin is not only encouraged, it’s necessary.Rick Warren

The winner of the disagreement is the one who leaves with his or her integrity intact, having soothed the angry mob with words that present the only version of Christianity that some people will ever see. The winner is the one who refuses to fuel the fire with more sin, but instead stokes it with the love of Christ. Sometimes this means walking away from the debate all together. Sometimes it means keeping your mouth shut, even when that is a difficult thing to do.

So seriously consider if you want the best version of you, as you present Christ to the world, to be the version that also adds to the very things that God himself detests.

Hate can be a good thing.

Hate sin. Hate what it does to the world. Hate how it lies and destroys. Hate how it misleads people into believing that they don’t need God.

Hate sin with such ferocity that introducing people to Christ and his loving forgiveness of sin becomes more important than winning an argument.

Stick to your convictions.

Hate sin.

But don’t be its vessel.

 

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