I just concluded my first year sitting behind a desk and giving the grades instead of receiving them. I decided to jot down a few of my observations and tips in the hopes of making it easier for the new ones who will sit down this August and feel a little out of place
Come in guns blazing.
It is much easier to be a super strict teacher and ease up than it is to be lenient and double down. The kids aren’t going to take you seriously if you come off as a push over and they will push.
Respect the hierarchy.
There is always a hierarchy. Someone is always in charge, someone is always above you. Those teachers who have been there for 15 years, don’t expect them to tell you all their secrets and invite you into their club right away. Prove your worth and your sincerity and you will find most willing to share their knowledge.
There are the rules and then there are the RULES.
The rules are the ones you get in the handbook. The RULES are the ones that make people whisper. These are the ones like not discussing that particular local event, or whose parking spot belongs to who, or which parents are “untouchable”. You can either figure these out by trial and error or hopefully find someone nice enough to let you in on the unwritten taboos.
You will get invested.
And faster than you think. You will find yourself staying after to help the kid who can’t quite get it and buying snacks for the chess team. You will wind up with a dozen shirts in your closet with the school colors and not remember buying any. You’ll get roped into this club, and that extracurricular. Before you know it, you will be planning how to make it better at home on Saturday.
You will get angry.
It will get to you. There is no getting around it. The absolute shambles of the system and the way it is failing the students who most need the help will worm its way into your soul. You will feel cheated and useless and lost while trying to fight a battle that was lost long before that kid ever got to your classroom. You aren’t alone. Do what you can.
Befriend the janitors.
The custodians and the secretaries know more than everyone else. Make sure and treat them with respect. Take the time to talk to them and if possible make their job a little easier when you can. Also if you ever need something for your room like a desk, doorstop, trash can, or something similar ask a custodian. They can supply just about anything like that. These invisible workers run the school and are very rarely given the recognition they deserve. Go out of your way to notice them.
Play to your strengths.
If you are a nerd, play that up. Talk about video games and the latest marvel movie. If you are a jock, relate history to football. Don’t try to be someone you aren’t. Kids can smell a faker from a mile away.
The yearbook staff knows everything.
Need to know who got a detention, who failed this class or which teacher isn’t coming back next year? Talk to the yearbook editors. The kids in that class have access to the school on an entirely other level while still being tapped into the student gossip network. They will know things before the staff will. Keep in mind that also means they somehow know about that drunk text you sent to the principal and how you got that dent in your car door. Use this resource with caution.
Do not piss off the IT people.
These people have the means to make your life miserable. They control access to your email, your internet, and what videos you can use to teach in your classroom. They decide if you having a working smartboard is urgent or can wait until next month. Ask for help, but do it nicely, and do it once. They don’t need reminding every other day and they tend to take that badly. This is another group that if you treat right will pay massive dividends.
Hopefully you found some of this useful. Or it at least gave you a laugh. Schools are scary places as students and for new teachers it kinda comes back. Keep your composure, trust your instincts, and remember you have the right stuff or you wouldn’t be there in the first place. Have a wonderful summer and an awesome first year.