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Lessons learned in my 3 decades of teaching teens.
Tomorrow I start year 32 in the classroom. Here’s a list of the lessons I’ve learned over my 3 decades working with teens…
Never lie to the kids. Someone once told me that kids can smell BS a mile away and it’s true. Tell the truth.
Kids will surprise you if you pay attention. They’re sorta amazing.
They are kids and do shit kids do. It’s not personal, so don’t take it that way.
If the kids get curious about something, then follow that curiosity. It’s where the most effective learning happens.
Let them think they are pulling you off task and they will be curious all the time.
Don’t fart in class
If you ever fall, they will act like you’re old and broke a hip.
If you feed them, then you have to always feed them.
You should always feed them.
Never get mixed up in their relationships. That means don’t give advice etc. it’s always problematic.
Rule 10 does not prevent you from sitting kids next to their crush…
Give the kid a pencil, it’s not a big deal.
Kids make mistakes, let them. It’s how they learn.
Kids will fail. Again, it’s how they learn.
Teaching does not make you a savior and some kids just want you to be their teacher. Period.
If you change one life, you’ve been successful.
You will change many lives.
You will not know about the impact you have on most kids, but that does not mean it’s not profound.
There are many ways to measure good teaching.
Kids are always listening (and watching).
Do no harm. Adolescence is hard enough without you adding to the shit they deal with.
You are the adult in the room, remember that.
I’m shocked that there are this many things I’ve learned.
It takes years to become a solid teacher, but if you work at it, you will get there.
Tell the kids what they are learning and why. Use plain English, not buzzwords.
The best partner you can find is another teacher… trust me on this one.
Most PD is bullshit, but not all of it.
You may not be able to tell the difference, so pay attention.
Administrators are temporary, they come and go like the weather.
Colleagues are also temporary.
So, teach for the joy of teaching and not who you teach with.
There are no new ideas, just recycled ones.
Sometimes the recycled version is better than the original. Again, pay attention.
Try new things, new lessons, new approaches, new methods.
Be flexible… if something doesn't work, don’t be afraid to change it as you go.
Listen to music in your classroom. It makes you human, and it’s nice.
Listen to lots of different music.
Listen to what students are telling you and remember that people use more than words to communicate.
You do not know everything, don’t be afraid to tell your students that and then show them how to find the information.
New teachers: be patient with older teachers, you don’t know what their years of experience have taught them. Try listening and you may learn something.
Experienced teachers: be patient with younger teachers, you don’t know what their years of experience have taught them. Try listening and you may learn something.
Look outside of your discipline. I’m a social studies teacher and I’ve learned the most about teaching from math and science teachers.
Listen more than you talk.
Don’t hover over students, they don’t like it. Squat down so you are at eye level when you talk to them at their desks.
When you are wrong, apologize and make the apology as public as the mistake.
Set clear boundaries and stick to them. Teaching can easily become an obsession, but there is more work than time to do it. You need to learn to say “no.”
Everything is political. It’s up to you how much you let that affect what you do, but you can not avoid politics as a teacher.
Some of the most toxic adults are inside the building with you. When you spot toxic staff, avoid them. Don’t fight, just deny them the attention they seek.
Protect your mental and physical health. If you aren’t healthy, then how can you do any of the above?
Last, but not least, don’t forget to have a life outside of the classroom. Teaching is only a part of who you are. Trust me, you will be a better teacher for the fullness of your non-teaching experience.