• Jennifer Meliton

Stuff You Gotta Know: Teacher Edition

Dear friends who want to be a teacher, I know there are many well intentioned former educators out there who are preparing you to become great molders of young minds. But there is so much more you need know that no one will think to tell you. Until now.

* Kids will puke right in front of you. It's going to happen and it will be ok. There is stuff the custodian can sprinkle over it that literally kills the evidence. If you are a sympathetic puker, ask for some to keep on hand. Remind me to share the most epic story of hurling you have heard. It's incredible.

* You need to say about 20% of what you actually say. This is true in the classroom, the faculty room, and pretty much everywhere.

* There's a difference between being kind and being a pushover. By all means be kind. But kids will stampede over you if you don't set boundaries and make expectations clear. They will still like you, I promise.

* You will have kids who cause you to cry. It might be because their story is so sad, it might be because of something that happens in their life. It is likely that you will cry because you don't know what you are going to do if you have to be with them every day for a whole year! There are tough cases out there. The ones who are the toughest will teach you more about teaching, and more about YOURSELF than anyone else. You will remember their names your entire life, and if you are lucky they will remember yours. In a good way. Among my kids are Daniel, Ezekial, Jason, Justin, Betty, Kim...some of these kiddos are doing amazingly well and have made their lives amazing. Some have spent, or are spending time in prison. I think about each of them all the time.

I digress. You will make it. You have to decide NOW though, that when you get these kids you will be patient and kind, that you will be accepting and flexible, and that you will learn new things to put in your bag of tricks. Decide that you will not be mean or nasty or sarcastic. Make this pledge and when the kiddo shows up, remind yourself frequently.

* You learn approximately 30% of what you need to know to be a good teacher in college. There is SO MUCH you will need to do to get up to speed. You'll need to read, talk to other professionals, research, and listen. Ask for advice, seek out learning opportunities.

* Don't buy every cute thing you see for your classroom. Excess is not only unnecessary, it's distracting. Less is more. But make it GOOD! Limit time on Pinterest. It will eat your soul. Teachers Pay Teachers same (only it will also eat your wallet.)

* You will wonder why "old" teachers are so salty. Listen to their stories, take them with a grain of salt, learn from the kind ones, and remember that you will blink, and all of a sudden you will be one of them.

* Dress at least one level higher than you think you should. Under no circumstances should the combination of jeans, t-shirt/sweatshirt and tennis shoes be worn unless the principal has expressly stated that that is what you should wear. Iron your clothes, dress modestly, and look good. You don't have to spend a fortune *at all*. Drop me a note if you need a fashion consultation! I'll help!

* You will take things personally. Keep a little package of QTips somewhere you will see them frequently to remind you "Quit Taking It Personally". Parents will unleash fury on you, kids will unload and act out, an administrator will come down on you for something, a staff member won't like you. These are all ok. Take each situation with grace and remember, behind each of these folks there is a story you don't know about why they are acting the way they are or doing what they are doing.

* You will feel like you have the world by the nuggets. This feeling will last approximately 19 minutes. Enjoy it.

* You will feel like you have no idea what you are actually doing. This feeling is called life. It lasts a long time. You will get used to it.

* Be AMAZING to every non-classroom-teacher in your building. That means not only secretary and custodian, but also specials teachers, instructional aids, cafeteria folks, and yes, principals. (It goes without saying that you will be fabulous to all other teachers.)

* Ask for help but avoid being needy.

* Don't overshare. There's a difference between being aloof and being a better listener than talker. (Remember 80/20.)

* Your job is not your life. You have to keep a work life balance and it is NOT 80/20. Yes, you have to work very hard, often at home, but there is a time to turn it off and just live. Failure to do so will not make you better, it will make you bitter.

* You will defy all of these suggestions, probably within the first year. And you will be fine. Just keep learning more than you teach!


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