One of my favorite things to do is help intern teachers and first year teachers. I know that many new teachers decide to leave the profession after just a few years. I believe that some of those who leave would have been excellent teachers if they were given a good support system. In what other profession are you told "Good Luck!" and left with a room full of kids without seeing another adult in your room until the day is over? So, here are a couple of things to keep in mind as the new year begins.
1. You don't get a second change to make a good impression. I'm not talking about making the students think you are cool or knowledgeable. I'm talking about making sure you follow through with everything you say. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Don't make empty threats, like "If you don't listen, I will have you suspended for the remainder of the year." Chances are you can't follow through and suspend students. But, you can use the power you do have. like just saying firmly "It is my turn to talk." or "If you choose to not listen, you will not be able to successfully complete your homework or the test."
2. Don't argue. High school students don't want to be embarrassed. They have the need to be right and "win" in front of their peers. When you catch yourself disagreeing or even arguing with a student, just stop and say "This discussion is over now. If we need to talk more about the issue, we will do it later." It is not easy to do, but it will give the student some time to think about what has been said and done. Students do not want to lose a battle with anyone. By strictly ending the conversation, there is no loser and the student has not been insulted (even though he/she is wrong because we know the teacher is always right).
3. Be prepared. Start thinking now. What do you do when there is a major discipline issue in your classroom? We all want to think that there won't be a major issue in our classroom, but if we decide what will probably work best, the issue can be defused quickly. For example, my first teaching job was in an alternative school where there were fights everyday in every period. In the beginning I frequently thought about what I would do if it started in my classroom. I decided that I would walk toward the students who were arguing and say the student's name who I had the best relationship with. Then, when they stopped I would get them sitting down and call the office to have an administrator come to my room. I have actually had to deal with it three times in my classroom. In all three cases, the fighting students were sitting in chairs working when administrators arrived (out of breath I might add). I had a plan and was able to get the students to do what I wanted. You may even have different plans in mind for different situations.
3. There will be a time when you are wrong. If you work a problem wrong, share the wrong information or teach an entire section wrong, it is ok. You have just created the opportunity to teach students how to deal with their own mistakes. Admit your mistake, apologize for the mistake and correct the problem. If it was an entire section that you taught wrong (Yes, even I have done it), you will have to reteach the information more than just once to fix all misunderstandings.
4. If you have an idea, share it! Even if it is your first year of teaching, I encourage you to share with other teachers, either in your building or through your blog. Many experienced teachers would love to assist you in making your idea work in your classroom and maybe even try it in their own classrooms.
5. Every teacher is different. So, if you ask someone for help with an issue in your classroom and really don't think you agree with what you are told, then ask someone else! You are not insulting the first person you asked, you are merely collecting data from a variety of people.
6. Remember that your goal is to make sure every single student understands every objective. It may seem impossible at times, but you have to just keep adjusting to meet the needs of every student.
If you are an experienced teacher, remember that it is our job to help those who are new to the profession to be the best teacher possible. If we each help keep one good teacher in the classroom, we have changed the lives of many students for many years to come.