New tricks for old teachers, old tricks for new…

August 4, 2010 at 7:58 PM 2 comments

Starting the dreams of 42 kids in a class room filled with old lab stools. Suddenly it’s the first day and I’m late with no idea what I’m going to teach. The kids start getting restless. I wake up as the first ones start climbing out of the window and escaping.

Reading “See me after class – Advice for Teachers by Teachers” by Roxanna Elden was calming and way more entertaining than the usual pious exhortations. The dedication reads “To my students , for making me a teacher (except for a few of you and you know who you are)”. Sort of like “Operating Instructions – surviving my son’s first year” by Anne Lamott, only for first year teachers. I loved it, read it like talking to a sympathetic teacher pal. Good advice, honest and with an eye on the prize instead of a bitter riff.

Not quite as prescriptive as “The First Days of School” by Wong and Wong (do two Wongs make a Wright?). This book by the way, was really helpful to improve many of my class procedures that used to really bug me through the year – how to handle bathroom breaks, late kids, getting kids started on time etc.

Plus if you are feeling in further need of starter nerve reducers, check out the “Nanny” school makeover video clips by Sue Cowley. Be warned – more British voices. But she did write a book called “Getting the Buggers to Behave!” and you have to love that. They did it by staging discipline issues instead of filming and publicly humiliating a teacher, nasty Nanny-style. Covered stuff like the first 15 minutes, class rules and how not to let your stress spill over to the kids.

The National Science Teachers Association have complied some of their articles on both mentoring new teachers and for new science teachers.

Interesting talking with an Exploratorium teacher on staff about introducing inquiry to new teachers. Doing inquiry well is really hard, it requires great subject matter knowledge AND excellent class management. Because frankly, if the management of kids, materials and time is not in place, it’s going to be dangerous chaos with the only learning being “science is playing” or “I’m scared of the other kids in science class.”

The resources above around class management are a key first step, especially for the more ambitious kinds of inquiry like project-based learning, and add the level of student autonomy in TAP and I’d better be sure I really have class management down. That’s what many of the TAP activity sheets are aimed at, and what this blog is trying to supplement, including many examples of learning from mistakes, embarrassments and a few semi-disasters requiring major re-working of activities between period 1 and period 3. I’m thinking of the dud “What’s Wrong with the World” before  the far more popular variation “The Relationship Game” was invented out of sheer desperation. See the pic – don’t you feel reassured?.

Okay, how about the second one? 

The tips and help in the linked resources above might help start your year well. And only starting TAP in January, AFTER getting a good handle on our classes really helps too.

Here are some things I’ve found to make a real difference:

  • Do be excited about what we’re going to learn together this year.
  • Greet each child by name at the door as soon as you can.
  • Find one thing you have in common with each child from their ‘get to know you’ writing and chat with them quietly during quiet work or at beginning/end of class.

How are you feeling about the upcoming year? What tip, attitude or strategy has been key for you? Please share…


Entry filed under: Class Management. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

TAP Issue – Plastic Trash in the Sea Thinking about PBL but not necessarily TAP?

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. susanabythesea  |  August 4, 2010 at 8:48 PM

    I remember those dreams well!
    As I became more focused on teaching based upon really knowing the kids – their strengths and their not-so-strengths, their interests and their needs – I realized I was facing first days of school much more like a child waiting for Christmas… Was the room 100% ready? Usually over-ready (a part I love!) – but I got to the place where I wanted the kids to see it as all of our space and have some input and ownership. I’d deliberately leave some things for them to decide and execute. So the not-quite-ready panic kind of turned around to an “I can’t wait to see what they do with it” excitement over time. And then of course, 12 things up your sleeve!

    Ownership, a basic rule or 2 (Really just one: Respect.) and things to be fascinated about and you have the beginnings of preventive discipline – the best kind, if you ask me.

    Wishing you an exhilarating new school year! I just know you’ll knock their socks off!


    • 2. Sue Boudreau  |  August 4, 2010 at 8:59 PM

      Me too. Love the way you write about teaching, filled with fun and warmth. The kids need you back in the class room I think 🙂



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