You finally made it. It is what you have been hoping for, wishing for, and preparing for, for what seems like forever. You are a qualified, certified, and now employed teacher. Enter panic. What do I do now? What have I gotten myself into? We have all been there. All teachers were at some point that green newbie, walking into a classroom of children for the first time. It is normal to be apprehensive or just plain scared, but here are some answers to some of the most common questions that you may have.
1. How am I supposed to grade all of this?
First of all, you don't have to. A tip that I found very useful, relatively early in my career is, If you are grading everything they are doing, they aren't doing enough. Everything that they do is practice and practice never hurt anybody. Whether you put an actual grade on it or not does not lessen the importance of their practice. Vary your assessment of their work. Believe it or not, they often forget about their assignments as soon as they turn them in, so use your discretion when dealing with assessments. Also, when you don't slap a letter grade on everything, it allows them a penalty free practice zone. A lot of my daily work and homework assignments, especially when dealing with new material, gets checked for effort and completion, and I save the number grades for quizzes and tests. This also serves to help balance their grades. Also, depending upon the assignment, I allow students to grade each other's papers. This is my "quick and dirty" method. This serves a two-fold purpose. It saves you time, and it allows your students to review the answers immediately, while the material is still relevant. I realize that some frown on this method because of the possibility of cheating and the embarrassment factor. First of all, as teacher you need to warn them of consequences of any "creative grading," closely monitor them and spot check the assignments. Honestly, some students will find a way to be dishonest, no matter what the circumstance is and they almost always get found out, sooner or later. And as far as student's being embarrassed about their grades, I'll say this: most won't be embarrassed, and some should be embarrassed. Either way, they will get over it. I consider it incentive to pay attention, study and do well. Besides, the positives far outweigh the negatives in this situation.
2. What if my class is out of control?
Sometimes it seems as if your class is out of control and all of your students are acting out. In reality, this is probably not true. There are probably 1-3 students that are making the class period miserable. You may have to separate the suspects from the rest of the class in order to accurately assess the situation. If there is a neighboring teacher who is willing to supervise a "time-out," utilize him or her. Deal with these 1-3 initially, and if there is more than one, you may want to deal with them separately and privately. It is not advantageous to be in the process of disciplining one student while another is misbehaving. Pull them aside, give them a detention, call the parents; do whatever it is necessary to get those students under control. If you are able to do this, it will change the whole dynamic of your classroom. Pick out the biggest threat, the loudest mouth, the biggest distraction, make an example out of him or her, and usually the rest will fall in line.
3. What if they hate me?
Rest assured. Some of your students will not like you. No matter what you do or what you say. You can bake them brownies and show them pictures of your dogs, but they still will not like you. And that is totally okay. You don't need fifteen year-old friends anyway. And honestly, it is not good for your professional image to be the "cool teacher." Kids like teachers who "don't give too much work, "or "don't care if they're late," or "let them do what they want." They will voice this to their friends and your colleagues, and that is not the reputation that you want. But the good news is that some of your kids will LOVE you. No matter what you do or what you say. Some of these will be the kids you least expect. They will totally get you and love you forever, and that will make up for all of the others.
4. What if I don't know the answer to something?
A common fallacy is that teachers know everything. About everything. The truth is that you only have to know more than your students, and not even that much more. There have been times when I was embarking on a new subject, and I was literally a chapter ahead of my students. You don't have to know the answer to everything; you just have to know where to find the answer to everything. And don't be afraid to tell your students, "I don't know, but I'll find out and get back to you," or even, I don't know, but why don't you find out and let the class know tomorrow." Most of the time, the kids are totally fine with this answer, and it teaches them how to be resourceful.
5. How do I deal with parents?
If you deal with kids, you will definitely have to deal with parents, and there is an art to this. Here are a few simple suggestions: If using email, keep it short and to the point, less is more. Don't be afraid to show your authority; remember you are the expert in the room. Whenever possible, start with a positive-and sometimes you will have to dig deep for this. Contact them sooner rather than later, if you want to head off problems. Don't make any promises to them that will be too difficult to keep.
Don't underestimate your preparation and ability in this situation. If you are a professional, you have done your work. You have studied and prepared, and honestly, you can never be 100% equipped for every situation that may occur in the classroom. However, be confident that you will be able to handle it, and as you become more experienced, you will develop habits and procedures that will make it easier for you to handle anything that might come your way.
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