0166: A Quick and Dirty Guide to Your First Year of #Teaching (Outside of School)
#education #firstyear #support
This post was inspired by a friend who is graduating and will start his first year teaching next year. These are some the things I didn’t learn until I started teaching. They have little to do with time in the classroom. It has everything to do with the side effects of your time in the classroom. Contrary to popular belief, you’re still a human outside of the classroom. Your identity as a teacher needs a break so the old you doesn’t disappear. I hope this helps. (Note: This is free advice. Free. It’s based on my experience. Use what’s good. Discard the rest)
1. You’re not as rich as you think
You’ll get your first paycheck. It’ll seem huge. If you’re anything like I was you will have been a few months without real pay. Maybe you’ve been living off of financial aid for a few years or a minimum wage job. And then you ran out of aid about a month before your first paycheck. So it’s ramen for one more month, and then you’ll be getting paid for real. The first check finally comes. It’s a sum of something over $1000, maybe more if your in the right state. It’s money, and you’re coming off a terrible bout with post-collegiate situational poverty. You’re hungry for something sexy (nice food). You’re stressed (we’ll talk more later about this). You have bills.
I was advised by a veteran teacher to have my first paycheck given to me in singles. All one dollar bills. From that huge stack I was to count out all my bills first: a stack for rent, a stack for electric, a stack for forthcoming student loans, etc. I was also advised to always take 10% off the top for myself. For a little fun. By doing this I would be able to see exactly how much I would need each month. I could budget this way. And, I would have rewarded myself.
Did I heed this wise advice? Of course not. I paid my bills up front. And even treated myself— up front. That was a little over two-thirds of my money. Less than one-third for the rest of the month seemed doable, except I forgot about a bill. So I ended up in the red. I was behind when paycheck no. 2 finally arrived. Things got a little better. I was learning. I got a car. With low payments. Learned to budget that in. Things went ok for a few months.
Student loans. I had managed to forget that I would have to start paying on my student loans about 6 months after I graduated. Into the red again. I had to make a new budget and catch up.
How could I have done better?
The first paycheck is small. There are lots of bills and things to factor in your budget: rent, utilities, car payment, student loans payment, transportation, food, entertainment, and so forth. You SHOULD make a budget. Money is difficult to play by ear. Especially when you’re stressed. Money that can buy things that relieve stress can and will become just another stressor if you’re not careful. Which brings us to no. 2: stress.
2. You’ll be stressed. Really stressed.
Your first year as a teacher is stressful. You’ve heard it a thousand times. You’re trying to get your footing in the classroom. How to get your students (of any age) to do what you say. How to help people learn (it’s a miraculous combination of a many things— you’ll see). How to stay organized, grade papers, get lesson plans done, call parents, blah, blah, blah. All first teachers try to survive. My first year was at a particularly violent school that functioned like a prison where the inmates and the guards were at war. There were rival gangs in the school. Police. Guns. Violence. Drugs. Etc. So, on top of the basic stressors I was working to build trusting relationships with my students who weren’t eager to trust a teacher. A kid brought a sawed off shotgun in during my first week. I got to deal with that. Fights. But, we got there eventually. And I had a great and peaceful time after some hiccups and hair loss. Again, I hope your first experience is a little different.
But, all that is just in the classroom. It’s a different world outside. It’s not wise to get married your first year. I didn’t, but I know why I was told that. I had a significant other when I started teaching. We’re married now years later, and I think that’s a miracle. I’m surprised we didn’t split. I could hardly hold myself together when I got home. I was seeing things up close that I really didn’t want to see. The violence. The pain. The struggles. The broken educational system for the kids I was teaching. I was no stranger to these scenes, but it was new to me as a teacher. It was intense. I came home tired and angry quite often. We fought at home. Rather, I would pop off. After the gun incident my lovely other asked me not to go back. We needed money and I was determined. Stresses in the classroom were deeply affect my life and relationships outside of it. I was taking work home. I was fueling bad habits to deal with stress too. Be careful with drinking, over eating, or anything else that can be harmful that might help you cope with stress.
What could I have done differently? What did I do?
I’ll answer the second question first. I kept a journal through my first year. It was my saving grace. It was good reflection, but even more it was my vent for some of the terrors and a place for me to share the joys. I wrote my successes, failures, and flub ups. It was tremendously helpful. Blogging would have been helpful. I also had a few veteran teachers there who would drop by and check on me occasionally. That helped some.
I should have been more adamant about building relationships with other teachers there. I could have done more on that front I think. Although, teachers don’t always take kindly to new fish. Moving along. I should have maintained a better routine. I should have stuck with a better, more regular exercise schedule. It helps with the stress. I learned to leave work at home. It was always there when I got back.
3. If you dress up as a character, say, a frog, change before going to the bank. You’re an adult.
This applies in multiple arenas. If you teach kindergarten, for instance, don’t forget to talk to adults like adults. In general don’t forget to have conversations with adults. Keep friends. Make friends who aren’t teachers. Make friends who are. Just don’t limit yourself to the teaching world. Be well rounded.
4. Your significant other and/or friends want to hear about more than teaching.
Be mindful of how much you dwell on your job. You are a teacher, yes, but you’re you first. Do what you can to be balanced.
5. Exercise, Try to Eat Right, if you drink be careful with it
All important things. It’s tough to stay healthy when your so busy and stressed. You can develop terrible habits, put on weight, lose control.
6. Find a Mentor
Find someone to guide and support you. Someone who understands what’s you’re dealing with. It’s tough. Don’t suffer alone.
Additionally, maintain/develop a strong support system. It’s tough to go it alone.
Let me know if there’s anything else I can share. Find me on twitter @educatedtodeath
And, excuse any grammatical wildness, if you please. It is a Quick and Dirty Guide.
0156: Chairman Mao, the Lunchroom, and Teacher Talk? (Revised*)
#education #SOSchat #occupyedu
A fellow teacher called me Mao Zedong at lunch the other day, and rather harshly too. This comment, though harsh was, from her point of view, warranted.
We were in the lunchroom at the “teacher table” having our general
lunchroom conversation. Teachers were discussing how the day was
going, blowing off a bit of necessary steam, and eating delicious and nutritious institutional food. A few of us get up periodically to monitor the cafeteria. I returned from my quick stroll around the room to a conversation that seemed to be taking a turn for the political. My ears piqued as I heard: “Police should just crackdown harder on these criminals. Then, maybe these kids wouldn’t be so bad. They see their parents get away with it, and they think they can too.”
“Maybe, we should crackdown on the people who make things the way they are, and make some of ‘these crimes’ necessary,” I said.
“What do you mean?” She glared at me. Our custodian looked at me and nodded his head at me.
“The ‘crimes’ you are talking about are petty in comparison to some of the more greedy offenses of…”
She cut me off, “What? Who are you saying we should blame? These people are committing crimes. Their kids are hoodlums. We have to deal with them.”
“We should blame the people who set up the system that leaves poor and middle class people to struggle while a small percent gets rich at their expense,” I said.
“You mean we should just take money and just give it to them? They don’t work. They send their kids to school and they act the way they do. They do drugs and commit crimes. They got themselves into this situation. They could get out of it if they really wanted to.”
Our custodian interrupted, “I don’t know. It’s not that easy.”
She bit back, “This is the land of opportunity. Anybody can make it
to the top if they really try. Just look at Bill Gates.”
“People don’t just choose where they end up,” I said. “It’s not always as easy as just trying. It takes a lot of support, education, patience, the right circumstances, to escape poverty, and even more to make it to the ‘top’. And some luck too.”
“Education. If they really try to get an education, they can get out. But, they have to try, and they don’t.”
“Even then,” I said. “People don’t have equal access to education. Some people have access to different opportunities.”
“Well they should just move then, to a better district. If they wanted to they could. They could get vouchers,” she said.
“But, it’s not equal. Everyone should have a right to an equal education, healthcare, jobs, opportunity.”
“You just want to take down the corporations and the republicans. The rich are in the business of make jobs for people. You’re Mao Zedong. A socialist. You people are always trying to tear down what’s good.”
“Good?” I paused. The conversation had shifted a bit from where we started, but we were still on a similar track. It was getting heated, other teachers were focusing our way, and our custodian was ever there in support. I continued, “Good for whom? The jobs they create either don’t pay enough, or are outsourced. The corporations function to make profit. That’s it.”
The conversation went on for awhile longer to no avail. I left. She called me a “Maoist Socialist who should probably not be teaching because [I] believe that wealth is unevenly distributed”. I equally have some concerns.
First, I think we should recognize that there are class divisions in the United States that are very difficult to overcome. There are obvious inequalities that come with these class divisions. Rights and consistent access to those rights are divided, in many cases, along racial lines.
This happens in many institutional settings, including schools and prisons. Prisons are filled with non-white individuals who often commit crimes that would not be necessary if poverty was not such an issue. Many prisoners are in prisons for crimes that do not even compare to the crimes of those with great power and money (i.e., a bag of weed vs. making healthcare inaccessible to many people, and then those people die or live with terrible ailments). So much for the land of opportunity.
By recognizing inequality we have an obligation to do something about it. As teachers our power is in our ability to allow, encourage, and facilitate learning that contribute to a toolbox that will make possible any social action deemed necessary by our learners. This toolbox might include any number of critical skills such as, dialogue, social media, discussions that lead to a deeper understanding of their own situations, multi-literacy skills, anything that contributes to them being able to manipulate their environments (e.g.,videoing police brutality). This toolbox can be built from the moment students enter kindergarten simply by allowing learners to know that their world knowledge is just as important as academic knowledge and finding time for rich conversations, good books, safety, and quality play— even if the test is on your back.
Finally, I am concerned with racism and classism among my colleagues (I’m sure they have concerns about me, expressed through the Maoist comment). I’m not sure how one could genuinely and authentically teach a student whom they believe to be a criminal who needs to be punished.
Would that belief not be carried out through teaching methods, discipline, and so forth? It certainly plays out in the number of Office Discipline Referrals.
Does the belief that everyone really gets an equal shot affect teaching? Does the refusal to see one’s students as human-beings before seeing them as criminals affect the way teacher and student interact? How do conversations such as this affect teacher relationships? Can they affect teaching practices for the better? Is it worth the risk to participate in these conversations?
* I don’t like to make a habit of revising blog posts. For me, it seems to formalize the process. But, in this case I’ve added to the dialogue to hopefully share the experience a little more accurately. Hopefully, it’s a little easier to follow too. Hopefully. Additionally, I’ve added some questions.
Revised for publication at http://coopcatalyst.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/chairman
0146: Education, Big Words, and a Concerted Effort
#education #SOSchat #edreform
I have, perhaps, sullied our interaction by not offering you a window into my classroom. I’ve offered the impression of looking into other windows and unfairly describing the experiences of others. I do not wish to ever make light of the successful and hopeful experiences of others.
Unfortunately, some points cannot be made, in order to be clarified, without making some generalizations and accusations, at least at my skill level. While there are places that offer children who live well below the poverty line an equitable education, there is a plethora of others that do not. This is not to say that there aren’t teachers giving their all and busting their asses to maneuver around and through multiple impasses. Teachers, principals, and communities often do incredible things with meager resources. Many are able to do these amazing things despite punitive and restrictive top-down measures. Schools are people not buildings. I’ve taught in schools where I could see the dirt through holes in the floor, with no heat or A/C. The teachers were dedicated and gave less than a rats ass about just appeasing auditors. However, changes had to be made to ensure the school remained open, jobs were maintained, etc. Some tightening of the belt was needed, and the school began to more closely resemble a test factory. Teachers and students were dealt with more harshly. This is not an uncommon practice—not just in schools where I’ve been, but anywhere schools are in trouble. Perhaps, I digress.
I will make the commitment to you, dear reader, to open my window a little wider. And, I will commit to sharing the things I see, hear, and begin to understand. A system cannot change if we worry too much with niceties. Education, in many places for many people, is inequitable. Equally society is inequitable. We have a third world hiding in our backyards. Many do not see it. We continue to live in a place that has a significantly fossilized system of segregation. Education systems are a part of this and will continue to be until _______. Continue to offer your scrutiny and your experiences— they’re far more conducive to generating thought and change than peer review and higher institutions. It is only through authentic human interaction that we change. I, in turn, will continue to grow and learn. We must tell our stories, the story, a story. We must push, complain, fight, agree…until we find a place for all our children, people, neighbors, and anyone else seen or not. It’s up to us. Cheers.
I am grateful for contributions and discussion regarding this blog. Criticism, support, dissent, dialogue, and so forth, are all deeply enlightening and helpful, for me, at least. It helps me to gain perspective, focus my story, and consider some redirection in places. We all have unique experiences and must work to frame them all within their appropriate contexts. Thank you for sharing your points of view, pointing out weaknesses, and offering reference to common ground. May we continue in dialogue that we may all become better educators, and communicators of our experiences.
0140: #Classroom Management, General Mayhem, and Evil Sundries Pt. 2
#education #SOSchat #k12chat
Last time, we discussed some of the theory behind classroom management. It was discussed with the understanding that it has come to mean various things to multiple people, but is best understood, for our purposes, as a way of fostering a generally organized environment, free of confusion, so learning can take place. In this second installment of ‘…Mayhem…’ we’ll look at some specific elements of classroom management: rules, procedures, directives, and my favorite, discourse. As always, if you feel the need to skip ahead, disagree, or deconstruct anything please feel free to do so. This is about conversation.
Rules state the behavioral expectation of the class, school, etc. Rules are often predetermined by administration, an individual teacher, Harry Wong, and sometimes the students themselves. Ultimately, the teacher determines the rules, and how they are enforced. Regardless of which rules are posted, you determine how the class is runs, at least on a behavioral level. Rules succeed and fail for many reasons. There success and failure has a great effect on classroom and school-wide outcomes, behaviorally and academically. Rules often fail because there are too many, they’re arbitrary, they’re stated in such a way that they guarantee failure, or they’re unenforceable (this is not meant to be exhaustive). Rules should be a general list of do’s, rather than an exhaustive list of don’t’s. When rules can be combined, they should. When they can be left more open for interpretation and/or discussion, they should. Clearly this will not suffice for a highly authoritarian classroom. Open rules require constant dialogue between teacher and student. The law will not be maintained by the posterboard labeled rules; rather, they will maintained through open discussion. Of course, there must be rules, so here’s an example. Instead of the faithful, “Don’t fight”, “Don’t cuss”, “Don’t spit”, “Don’t litter”, etc., try “Respect all people in classroom (school, etc.), and respect the classroom environment.” It’s positively stated; that is, it tells students what to do, rather than what not to do, and it’s easy to remember. Such a rule will require discussion, which should probably be ongoing. But, the rule will stand. It makes sense, it’s not arbitrary, and the students can see how it applies to them in multiple places— in and out of the classroom.
If you have to dictate a student’s every move and behavior, then there is a deeper problem. So rules shouldn’t dictate every behavior. Maybe they should set the mood.
Procedures, as many of us know, dictate the way things are run. These differ from rules because they deal with the day to day operating of a classroom. They cover things such as, turning in papers, entering and exiting the room, whether or not students must raise their hands to speak, and so forth. Procedures should be clear and they should be consistently enforced; that is, of you want a consistently run classroom. The enforcement can be as simple as requiring the students to comply with said procedure before continuing. If you want hands raised, do not answer a question if the student has not raised his or her hand. If you don’t give in, they’ll eventually get the point, or be ignored. Procedures need to be set at the beginning. They need to be clear. They need to be consistently enforced. Quality procedures can eliminate wasted time, confusion, and potential disruptions. They can pave the way to a smoothly run classroom.
Procedures fail when they’re not consistently followed. They are the guidelines for how a class operates. They also should be simple, and very clear. Students can take part in their development if you so choose. And, they can be amended. If they are ineffective, fix it. There only purpose is to make the class run smoothly. Like rules, the power is not in the posterboard, but in their constant use.
Directives, Discourse, and other Communication
Finally, directives. Directives and communication are the most important of all the classroom management tools, or whatever they’re called. We’ll tackle directives first. Directives are the explicit directions you, the teacher, gives a student. They should be clear, and let the learner know exactly what you mean. For instance, if you want a student to sit in their desk, tell him, “Sit in your desk”. Be direct and clear. Don’t continue with more directives until the first one is met with compliance. This goes back to the old concept of mean what you say. It builds trust through consistency. If you don’t care if the student sits or not, don’t give the directive. A clear message prevents confusion. Confusion equals chaos, and from there the dominoes tumble.
Directives should only be used for non-negotiables. They deliver your clear expectations as a teacher and set the groundwork for learners’ success. So, they’re important. Directives can be given verbally or in written form, like directions on a test. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of being clear and non-ambiguous. What directives don’t deal with should be left to discourse.
Discourse is the lifeblood of any non-authoritarian classroom. It’s a requirement for successful democracy on small and large scales. So, it should go without saying that we should concern ourselves with developing opportunities to participate actively in democratically functioning organizations, institutions, and activities. This does not mean that we just vote on rules at the beginning of the year, or vote on homework or none; rather, it should be a commitment to engaging learners constantly in dialogue that leads to the formation of knowledge and understanding. It means they’re generating questions and answers, rather than having them deposited by an all knowing teacher. Discourse should not be limited to the academic realms. It should extend through every aspect of the the learning experience—academic, social, behavioral, etc. Discourse is a generalizeable skill that, when integrated into our daily lives, will affect the way we reason, behave, and interact with the world around us. It is an invaluable tool for empowerment for teachers and students. As we are looking at classroom management, discourse seeks to eliminate the need for external enforcers of behavior and rules. Discourse involves the entire group in a living discussion. The class becomes theirs. With an active action oriented discourse learners and teachers alike will witness the transformation of rhetoric and dialogue into action and culture. There is much, much more to say about discourse, but this should suffice for now.
Rules, Procedures, Directives and Discourse— the greatest of these being discourse— all shape the way a class functions and to what extent learning takes place. The educator has the choice to what extent any of these elements are implemented. These elements can be as rigid or flexible as you decide. I submit, the way these factors are implemented has the power to deeply affect a learners’ understanding of democracy and their consciousness as a whole. Choose wisely. Be reflective. Be critical. I implore you to teach and learn with human beings, rather than control and train robots. Cheers.
Apology, Notice, and Thanks @LetPeepsVote @nomtweetshate @ifollowhate
#educate #hate #dialogue
I noticed I had a few new followers and the absence of a few others after I began following NOM. My site is devoted namely to education as a humanist practice and other issues related to human rights. I try to disseminate information related to public education and the harm that is caused through the excessive training our students receive thus rendering them less able to think critically, that is, consume, produce, and distribute information critically. With that said, I choose to follow people with a wide variety of views for different periods of time. However, educatedtodeath in no way condones the hate supported by NOM and other organizations of the like. I apologize for any confusion caused by my choice to follow NOM, I have since unfollowed the group. Additionally, I would like to thank @ifollowhate @LetPeepsVote and @nomtweetshate for working as watchdogs to pressure groups and users who follow hate groups as well as any other work they do.
0016: Administrators and Professional Developers Define Your Terms, and Empower your Teachers
Clearly defined expectations are tantamount to classroom performance. If a teacher wants a student to perform a task in a certain way, that task must be explained and discussed in such a way that the student can perform said task in such a way as to meet the teachers expectations. That means terms must be defined, rubrics should be clear, and for best results, dialogue between teacher and student should be free and frequent. The above is generally expected and necessary for a teacher to be effective.
Often, teachers are left in the dark by nebulous instructions from administrators and staff developers. The jargon in education is constantly changing. Expectations are constantly changing. With all this transition many education professionals are left in the dust, that means teachers, principals, and whoever else are struggling just to keep up with the change of lexicon. Which means communication is a constant struggle. Principals you must work to ensure that you are understood. You must teach your faculty to understand you. When kids understand, they function better. Teachers are the same way. Make sure faculty meetings are interactive. Walk around the room, and divide teachers into groups. Talk with groups individually to monitor for understanding. Best practices in teaching apply to leadership as well. If you want your schools to succeed, then help your teachers feel successful. Give them the tools to please you. And then tell them that they’re meeting your expectations. Build knowledge and power incrementally among your staff. And, this most certainly applies to district administrators too. Work to plug information gaps in bureaucracy.