Teach me to be a teacher…please?

In two months, I will embark on a new path as I begin my training for Teach For America. But I know I can’t do it alone. I’m well aware of  how some people feel toward TFA–some love it, some hate it. For this, I ask you to put your opinions aside so I can serve my students in the best possible way. Help me out by answering the following questions:

1. What do you expect from a teacher?

2. If you had a teacher impact your life (in a positive or negative way), how did this happen and what was the outcome?

3. Which pedagogical methods helped you learn the most as a child?

4. What do you think is the biggest problem with the public education system/American education in general?

5. If you are/were a teacher, what’s the most difficult aspect about being a teacher? What has been your most rewarding experience?

6. If you could go back to your first years as a teacher, what would you do differently?

7. Why did you decide to be a teacher?

Any other words of wisdom are very much welcome. Thank you!

One thought on “Teach me to be a teacher…please?

  1. Hi Liz,

    it’s hard to remember after years teaching college students… The best thing to do is to ask your fellow teachers when you arrive and be willing to listen. They might not have come through the TFA program but they have more experience than you and most people are happy to be asked for their advice and share tips. (What grade are you going to teach, by the way?)

    Also, get memoirs of teachers from the library – something like the Freedom Writers Diary, or “Relentless Pursuit” etc. I don’t think any of us at Lehigh has any real idea of what it’s like to teach in high-poverty elementary or middle schools.

    I’d say, students want to learn and feel they’re progressing. The biggest danger is to misjudge their abilities at the beginning of the year – especially overestimating what they have learned the previous year and what they remember.

    Students who act out in class might be bored because they’re lost and they feel embarrassed about it so they might prefer disrupting class and play the clown. In that case, you have to get them to change their identity from “class clown” to something more suitable to class, by showing them they can succeed.

    Not sure if I’ve written that before (sorry if I’m repeating myself), but it helps if you pick a in-class persona that is slightly different from your real-life persona. For instance, I’m more “bubbly”/vivacious when I teach undergrads. It’s what I call my one-woman-show. Some days you’ll be very tired and you don’t want to get out of bed and yet you have to, and you’re having car trouble or you got bad news, and yet when the class begins you’ve got to be able to do your best. So it really helps if you view it as a performance. Stand-up comics and theater actors go out there and do their job even if they had a bad day. I try to use that as inspiration.

    Develop tricks to deal with frustration, don’t overly focus on the students who don’t get the material – when 19 students “get it” and 1 is completely lost, we all tend to think we didn’t succeed because of that 1 student who is struggling.

    Most difficult aspect of being a teacher: students who try to play you (lie to your face with a sweet innocent smile). Usually you see through their game but it would create more problems than solve them if you told them you do (barely a slap on the wrist, if any disciplinary action is taken, parents protesting Junior is an angel, etc), so you get to sit there and listen to kids lying to your face, as if you were that dumb. Other related case: kids who lie about other kids to the teacher (looking like sweet little angels while they do it) for the fun of getting other kids in trouble. While many kids will respect their teacher, others might try to manipulate her. I’m not sure about child development stages so I don’t know if that is likely to happen in your classroom.

    Most rewarding: thinking you’ve made a difference, thinking this or that student would’ve had a much harder time if he/she hadn’t had you as a teacher. Don’t go in thinking most students you teach have to be your success stories, though – keep your ego out of it. Do the best you can.

    In high-poverty schools, young children probably want the classroom to be a safe haven from home drama and need structure. Create a routine for them (something they can clearly identify as a routine, not just “Hello students! How are you today?”) so that they can settle into the idea that the school day has begun.

    My 2 cents,
    A.

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