Sunday, August 16, 2009

100 Things New Teachers Need to Know, 31-40.

31.  Never let students be in your classroom when you’re not there.  Lock your door when you’re out.

This should be obvious, except that lots of teachers don’t realize that you are dealing with kids that often don’t make the best decisions.  And it should also be stated that you should always have a door wide open when in the room alone with a student of the opposite sex.  If I have any doubt, I even tell one of the two female teachers next door that I’m with a female student.  They think that it’s wise because in the current era it only takes one accusation to ruin a career.

32.  Mentoring is the ultimate teaching.  Model the kind of adult you want your students to become: carry books around with you, don’t swear, discuss world events, etc. 

Coaches do some of the worst modeling for students.  I found myself becoming a much better coach when I started to do much more modeling of small things around kids.  I watched my language, worked hard in practice with my teaching, and actually not treat winning as a life or death matter.  Yes, coming out on top in competition is important, but kids will play better when things are put into perspective.  Oh, and I think kids like it when you can talk about things other than sports.  Bus trips become about movies, current events, politics, all those things that help better relationships.  I just spoke to a basketball player about a trip he’s taking to the Plastic Vortex in the North Pacific.  We hardly touched on basketball, and that’s totally ok.

33.  If a student is copying another student’s paper, take both papers and give them zeroes.  Do this even if the papers were for another class, and give them to that other teacher.  Further punishment than this is not productive.

I agree with this in theory and practice.  Be immediate with the punishment, and then end it and move on.  Here’s the problem; you’ll be the liar.  Kids cheat often, it’s more about whether or not we catch them.  More often than not, we probably don’t.  Just be prepared to go to battle with administration or parents when you accuse a kid of cheating, and be sure.

34.  Post on your board that you will not accept any kind of late work or even discuss grades during the last week of each quarter.  This will save your sanity.

Of course, I don’t take late work anyway, so this becomes moot.  I also put grades online, and that elevates a lot of questions about grades.  When a complaint comes around about grades, simply tell them to go online and work the math equation.     

35.  Have a file set aside somewhere to put papers with no names on them, for students to look through when they wonder why they got a zero on something “they swear they turned in.”  Give them half credit when they find it in there.

I grade no-name papers, put them in the return basket, and then ignore them.  Kids that keep track of their grades will come in when they see a blank score for an assignment, find the paper, and then they get the credit listed.  Guess what, 80% of no-names will never be looked at by students.  My rule is that the kids have all kinds of access to their grades, they should care about it more than I do. 

36.  Let them prepare an index card of notes to use on major exams.  This is about the only way to get them to study.

Nope.  I will, from time-to-time, debate with myself whether or not to allow some notes on a major exam, only to slap myself and remember that student learning has to be self-motivated, even just a little bit.  Remember to be a little more flexible for IEP’s and 504’s, but I wouldn’t make it a habit to allow notes. 

37.  Fewer projects, more writing.  Projects don’t teach nearly as much as we’d like to think they do, and they need more practice writing, anyway.

For English and Social Studies, I whole heartedly agree.  In fact, how about incorporating more writing into project based learning, that way you can get more benefit.  I think all classes don’t do enough writing, although I also understand why teachers don’t want to spend every waking moment grading written work.  I don’t want to constantly grade 150 essays.  But find a way to do more writing.

38.  Wake them up with a warning the first time they fall asleep.  Don’t yell or bang anything to do it, just nudge their shoulder with your knuckles.

Sorry, but I’m setting tone intense early.  Someone nodding off will get a gavel on the desk or a book dropped next to the noggin.   

39.  Cell phones and iPods are evil.  Period.  Get yourself a reputation as an inveterate hater of all electronic toys in the classroom.

They are evil, but like any classroom management, be consistent.  My rule is that if a cell phone goes off, students can simple turn it off and we move on.  Little distraction and it treats them like adults.  However, if they text or try to hid headphones, I keep the phone/MP3 player for a length of time that I feel is necessary.  Anywhere from 1 day to a week.  Warning, you will be responsible for that device if you take it.  You better have a safe place to keep it or you are looking at a world of trouble.   

40.  Unless you’re reading out loud to them, there is never a good reason for you to be talking for more than five minutes at a time.  If they’re not working hard independently, they’re not learning.

This comes from a school of thought that I don’t agree with.  I watched some of the best teachers simply lecture nearly the entire class period, and students do fantastic and are enthralled with the subject matter.  It is a gift to lecture and discuss with that kind of energy, but it can be done.  I’d say that you might want to limit your lectures to 20 minutes and intersperse other things.  I always use Power Points to enhance lectures, and student response is overwhelmingly positive.  Remember in regard to Power Points, less is more. 

blog comments powered by Disqus