When it comes to advice for teachers (especially newer teachers,) I have a pet peeve. It drives me bonkers when I read blogs or twitter posts that are full of feel-good platitudes that don’t actually help anyone. I’m not talking about an encouraging post or anything like that; those are good. Let’s help and support each other. I’m talking about the ones that should theoretically be obvious to teachers or overly simplify a complicated topic. Some of my “favorites” include:
- Love your students. If you don’t at least marginally like kids (of whatever age you teach) then you won’t make it past student teaching. I guess one could argue that you should love your students even when they’re being unpleasant, but… I figured that’s pretty much a given.
- Have a behavior management plan. The issue is, I think, that some teachers struggle with enforcing their behavior management plan, not that they don’t have one. I feel like this advice also glosses over the fact that some students are unreachable by us for whatever reasons, or many teachers deal with administrators who won’t back them up when they do use their behavior management plan. And mostly, in my school, our behavior issues stem from teenagers being teenagers. I suppose I could give detentions all day long, but it won’t stop a social butterfly from talking rather than doing his work, or magically cause a forgetful student to remember to do her homework.
- Create engaging lessons. “I want to be super boring and hope the kids learn nothing from me,” said no teacher ever.
- Incorporate technology. This one is a bit of a nitpick, but I feel like the techie revolution is overwhelming and dismissive of teachers who are really good teachers but are slower to adapt to the constant barrage of technology changes. Do I think you should incorporate technology into your classroom? Yes, of course. But again, this platitude ignores the fact that some – many? – schools are still struggling to have functional computer labs, much less 1:1 situations. And honestly, you should only use technology if it enhances what you’re already doing. When I do TPRS, I like to type up the stories as I go to give an extra burst of written input. It’s very easy to do with my projector. However, whenever we do illustrations, we always use paper. It’s far easier for me to copy a blank template of six squares than to have students attempt to draw on a laptop trackpad. There is also the problem of students misusing technology to the point where it is a distraction and disruption to your everyday class activities. I don’t mind having to remind a student about my expectations on a regular basis, but this year, I have a class that has such difficulty regulating their behavior on the computer that I might go back to paper with them as the default. It’s not worth the lost time in class or the loss of my patience solely to check the ‘used technology’ box.
- Encourage your students to do their best. This one needs no explanation.
- Let your students control the learning. Like some of these other quips, this one is a complicated situation beautifully wrapped up in a shallow one-liner. Students, when left to do what they want to do, generally don’t work on educational activities. So as educators, part of our job is to ensure that students are completing some sort of educational curriculum. After that, I do think that it’s important to include student voice and choice, especially in a subject that can be as free-form as foreign language. However, what happens when your students really don’t want to be in control of their learning? I have a few classes this year that will happily comply with whatever I ask them to do, but if I ask them what they want to do (educationally), they just shrug. They don’t really care – to them, I’m the teacher and it’s my job to tell them what to do. Sadly, they’re not invested enough in their own education to want to give it a direction. In a lot of cases for my Preferred Activity Time, the same handful of kids are the ones that end up choosing what we do since no one else appears to have an opinion. It can be tough.
This post is a full #rantchat, however, I don’t believe in offering criticisms without offering solutions! Later this week, I will be posting a secondary post with advice that I think is actually useful for teachers. Tune in then!