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Teacher Training Doesn't Prepare You For Everything...

Things I Wish I'd Learned in College About My Profession

So I'm about to finish my seventh year of teaching...where did the time go right? And, with the news that I would have a student teacher in the fall, I began thinking about all the things that college didn't prepare me for. I know education theories, how state exams work, how to make a professional portfolio, and ideas of how to teach the material. But anyone who's been in this game for a while can tell you that all this stuff you learn in college doesn't really prepare you for that first step into your classroom. 

After some soul searching while studying abroad, I decided to go down the path to becoming a teacher. I consider myself lucky in being from a very small school where you had the opportunity to make lifelong relationships with teachers. 

One of the most influential teachers I had was my science teacher, who I had from seventh grade through my senior year. And it was because of her that I decided on high school science. Then four years later, I was walking into a classroom that was to be my domain. 

1. Now onto the hard part...where do you even begin?

That was the first thing I worried about. I was given a classroom, a set of textbooks, and told to get started. I was in a situation where I was in charge after spending years on the opposite end. College doesn't prepare you for that...heck, student teaching doesn't really prepare you for that either. 

Hopefully, you will go into your first classroom and find tons of resources left by the previous teacher but if not, talk to other teachers (especially if you're not the only one in your grade or subject). There are lots of websites, facebook groups, and conferences where you can find material to use. 

2. Another thing I'd wished I'd learned was how to talk to and deal with parents.

The most dreaded days of the year is Parent-Teacher Conferences. I was terrified in the beginning about talking to parents and always worried about saying something wrong or something they didn't want to hear. 

But what I've found over time is that the parents that show up, are usually claiming the "good" kids and you have good things to tell them. The parents of the "bad" kids will almost always be absent. In the event that they show up, having your administrators or a buddy teacher in the room with you will help. 

3. With the influx of technology, most schools have transitioned to online grade book systems.

These can be a nightmare if you don't have the basics down. I've experienced three different systems and all have been different. Having a generic training course for this is college would have been a godsend. You will get a login and password from your I.T. person then told to "play around with it." Your best option, ask your building secretaries (they know everything) or an experienced teacher for a tutorial. 

4. Something I struggled with was when to handle a difficult student myself or to send them to the principal.

For some reason, I felt that if I sent kids to the office I wasn't doing my job in the terms of classroom management. But what I had to learn was it's better to send the disruptive student out of the room to maintain order. 

You can read all the books on classroom management written but it still won't prepare you when you're standing in front of your students. One trick I've stuck with is to be very strict in the beginning. Stress that respect and privileges are earned, not given. You can always relax your management later on, but if you go in soft it's 10 times more difficult to become strict. You will learn within the first few weeks which classes to can relax with and which ones you need to be tougher with.

5. There are certain people you need to have a good relationship with at all times.

The office and secretarial staff are the first because they know everything, they usually have a stash of office supplies, and they tend have tons of helpful information about the community. The other important group includes the janitors, custodians, and maintenance crew. Things will break, cause a minor disaster, or you just need something fixed...if you don't have a good relationship with this group, you will find out just how long you can go without it.

This is not everything I've learned in my time as a teacher but it's a start. If you are reading this, I hope you take away some good information that will benefit your situation. Please don't be discouraged if something doesn't work out the way you planned. Approach new classroom ideas like Thomas Edison approached the light bulb— "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

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