A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

What to Expect Your First Year of Teaching, September 1998

Image of apple Veteran Teachers Talk Image of apple

The wisdom of experience

Award-winning veteran teachers have supplied a set of tips to pass on to their first-year colleagues. Some recurring suggestions: contact parents in the beginning of the school year, fostering a friendly rapport before problems arise; be well prepared for class; and model and enforce rules of courtesy and respect. Here are a few samples of veteran teachers' tips:

Veteran teachers' advice in a nutshell: be yourself, work with parents, love the kids, love teaching.

"A few years ago I read what I think is the best piece of advice I ever read on classroom discipline. . . . The upshot was this: when teachers were behaving in ways that made them comfortable, classroom discipline was best, and the kids learned the most. In other words, teachers who liked quiet, orderly classes could not effectively fake a loose, casual demeanor. Conversely, teachers who were by nature less structured could not `pretend' to be strict and inflexible. Their classes flourished best with some organized chaos. In other words, be yourself."—Nancy Flanagan, Michigan

"Call each parent about the first two weeks of school to tell them one specific and positive anecdote about the child. . . . Send home a 5 X 8 card and ask the parent to chat with their child about the child's goals and parent goals for the child for this school year. Needless to say, they aren't often the same. Use the card to track phone calls, notes, etc. throughout the year. Great for conference use, too."—Pat Rossman, Wisconsin

"I have each student complete a `student profile' so I can learn more about each of them as individuals. This profile includes not only information for record keeping and communication purposes but also their likes, dislikes, hobbies, employment experience, why they took my class, what they expect to learn in the class, what grade they expect to achieve in the class, where they have traveled, etc. As they complete each item, I tell them my response to the item so they will learn about me as an individual as well. This activity is a great `ice breaker' and gets the students involved right away."—Mel Hocking, Ohio

"I have a brightly painted, antique bathtub filled with pillows as a listening, reading and just hanging out with a friend doing `tubtime' spot. I also have a gigantic wicker rocking chair with a homemade afghan for kids to snuggle and read in and also sit with me each day during read aloud. I have a beautiful lop-eared bunny that is litter-trained that provides mega therapy for each of my kids. I have had a variety of classroom pets over the years and feel strongly that it is great therapy for all ages. . . . I play a variety of classical, jazz, tribal [music] as I have a very diverse population. . . . We spend the first 15 minutes of each day with all three third grades singing with sign language. I also have my students submit floor plans each quarter for their desk arrangements and then we vote as a class for that quarter's setups. I have had some really nifty setups! These are all pretty simplistic things but they seem to help me satisfy my students' needs for love, belonging, power and fun!"—Julie Ashworth, South Dakota

"Love them enough to risk their not liking you. Children must know that there are consequences to be suffered when they are not nice. . . . Classroom management how-to . . . just ask. Seek help. Always question us veteran teachers and we will find the answers together."—Carol Avila, Rhode Island

"Everyday I find a way to tell the kids how much I love to teach, sometimes by saying just that, sometimes by saying how I'd rather be with them more than anywhere else. They know I mean it."—Vicki Matthews-Burwell, Idaho


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