Sunday, August 16, 2009

100 Things New Teachers Need to Know, 41-50.

31.  PC Myth #4: “Students must be able to relate to content to understand or care about it.”  How condescending!  They’re not here to be pandered to, to have their warped, manufactured view of the world reinforced.  They’re here to expand their horizons.  That means intellectual humility borne of introspection brought on by exposure to challenging new ideas.  Shock and awe, baby.

I understand for Gently is coming from and agree with it in some regard.  But realize that students become a lot more engaged when they see relevance in the information.  How you present that information can help or hinder student involvement.  Fine, student views of information might be warped and manufactured, but use that to your advantage and make the information viable for student consumption.  To me, Algebra was just a bunch of formulas and numbers that held no meaning, and that is still my opinion today (sorry RIght on Left Coast) because I was never shown relevance.  Want to build a learner?  Show them why it matters.

32.  Bloom’s taxonomy is useful for planning assignments, but the “multiple intelligences” theory is not.  Every student wants to be a “people-oriented communicator,” and thinks they are…but they aren’t.  This world revolves around numbers and written words, and the things that radiate from them, and to the degree that we diverge from that in our training of our students, we do them a disservice.

And we make life in our classroom a royal hassle.  Teach different assignments for different modalities in the beginning, then take out those that benefit students the least.  Don’t be caught in needing to constantly address the one or two students that learn in “that” way.  Make some adjustments, but stick with what works best. 

33.  Keep a journal where you record funny moments in your class, memories of students who genuinely gained something from you, photos of themselves at dances that they give you, and anything else that’s positive.  It will save you when you’re ready to tear your hair out.

Absolutely!  I have a few e-mails that really made my day that I keep for those rough days.  They really help when you get the “me vs. the world” complex. 

34.  The perfect balance between professional and approachable behavior is impossible.  In general, lean towards more professional.  Assume that every student is out to get you; don’t give them anything to use against you.  This might appear extreme, but after your first few angry parents, you’ll learn to be cautious.

 I’m afraid that Gently is correct, and it might be the reason why I won’t ever be considered one of the best teachers.  I’ve noticed that many of the “greats” give hugs, have strong personal dynamics with students, and are incredibly approachable.  I’ve learned to be cautious because it takes only one rumor to make life miserable.  I guess it depends on the teacher, but I wouldn’t take the risk.  Remain professional and remain safe.

35.  Most students will need very frequent grade updates to stay at all motivated.

 Bah.  Most students don’t give a damn about their grade until the last month of the year.  My students have access to their grades online and most hardly check them.  If you don’t have an online grade book, I would post grades every 2-3 weeks, and tell students that you are always willing to talk grades outside of class time. 

36.  Go into every parent conference armed with copies of updated grade reports, recent samples of the student’s work, and any disciplinary paperwork related to the student.  If they have an IEP or 504, bring it and be ready to explain how you’ve complied with it.

Document everything.  Follow Gently’s advice and realize that the child has fed the parent their version of the story for days, weeks, or even months.  It will go a long way if you have everything written down. 

37.  If you have a problem with a student, email their other teachers for advice: someone knows how to deal with him.  If the student is in ROTC or plays a sport, go to the officers or coaches.  They will get you results fast.

Excellent advice.  I’m coming from the view of teacher and coach, and I expect my kids to make grades and excel. 

38.  Detention is rarely worth it.  If you do make a student come in, make them use the time to do homework for your class, or clean your room.

I don’t do detentions.  Why should I take up my time after school for something a student did?  I kick them out, send them to In School Suspension, or better yet, nail the problem before you have to take it to that level. 

39.  Collect homework as soon as the day starts.  Anyone who was “finishing” it after that gets half credit.

Better yet, collect when class starts and don’t accept after that.   

40.  Never, ever, ever take any work home with you.

Good luck.  Nine years in and I’m still working on this.  If you don’t take work home with you, more power to you.  I’m not there yet.  Of course, I’ve had a brand new prep every year for the last four years.

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