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Advice to a 1st year teacher (from a student)

Students in a local English class were asked to write a classification essay where they categorized and then explained with justification. One student wrote an essay organizing teachers into categories, and some of it is pure gold. The categories include "listers" (substitutes who just read monotonously from a list all day and then online shop), "soon to be retiree" (if you get them off topic, you will be indulged in life lessons and hilarious stories), "rulers" (mean teachers who do not want you to have fun, but to learn), and my favorite, "freshies" (first year college graduate teachers), who I will focus on.

You see a lot of advice for new teachers coming from seasoned teachers, but not often coming from the students themselves. Here is how one high school senior sees new teachers fresh out of college.

New teachers lack authority

The student says, "usually these new high school teachers will lack the discipline needed to keep the classroom under control; they allow swearing, back talking, and all around lack of authority." New teachers lack experience with behavior management, while students have had years of being professional trouble makers.

What can you do? Get as much experience first hand of management opportunities as you can before your first year. Volunteer or substitute teach at inner city schools, Boys and Girls clubs, special education classrooms, summer camps, or any time where you may be faced with a chance to try out your management skills. Having pretty expectations posters is great, but if you have not experienced being in the trenches, you will be caught off guard on many occasions by these profession trouble makers, who are just trying to test your authority.

Students think new teachers are a joke

High school students know when they have a first year teacher. According to the essay, "students think new teachers are a joke and can learn nothing from them because they have no experience." Students assume that their class is being used as a trail run, and do not like to have their time wasted.

What can you do? Show your students that you know your stuff. Brag on your accomplishments. Be confident and fake it til you make it. At the same time, if you do not know the answer to a question, instead of making something up, be honest and use it as a learning opportunity together to figure it out.

New teachers have no idea what they are getting into

Even with the best preparation, a first year teacher often walks blindly toward the end of the day, week, quarter and school year with just a hand drawn map they made themselves. According to the student, "Freshies have the hardest job of all teachers because they have almost no idea what they are getting into with the students or the curriculum." It goes on to say that if new teachers persevere, they can become great teachers.

What can you do? Find a mentor. This may not be the school assigned mentor you were assigned to, but instead a like minded teacher of the same subject you met in #langchat on Twitter. This is especially important for those of you who will be a department-of-one. These mentors can really help out with the curriculum side, while fellow teachers in your school should be your go to people with questions about particular students. It is better to ask then continue to walk blindly alone. it is so much better with someone by your side, coaching and cheering you on.

The student ends by saying, "all teachers have your best interest at heart." If you can get across to students that you care about them as people, then you are on your way in the right direction. So whether you are a "freshie" or a "soon to be retiree," remember that your students are watching your every move, and may even be categorizing you as well. If you persevere, you too can be a great teacher.

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