I have spent three years as a high school teacher in the Texas independent school districts. These are some things I wish I knew during my first year.
1. Read about a specific teaching method program that integrates classroom management and role play with other teachers. Doug Lemov’s Taxonomy of Effective Teaching Practices is a good methods list to practice.
2. The first week of school is a very important time to firmly stick to class rules. Be consistent in enforcing them.
I knew one teacher who required her students who did not do their homework to stay after school fifteen minutes the same day to finish it. The children had to use her classroom phone to call their parents to let them know they had a referral and had to stay fifteen minutes after school to complete their homework. If the students didn’t show up, the teacher recorded it as a no-show and it became a detention the next day. Sometimes a third of the class would not have done their homework but they all had to call and stay after school.
3. Establish a routine and prepare your students before you change it. Conducting class in a consistent way helps your students to know what to expect from you as a new teacher and prevents frustration.
4. Don’t start out assuming students will work hard for you out of principle. Directly reward your students for their work. Throw pizza parties following between classroom competitions. Keep class progress charts on the wall to show how well they are doing compared to other classes.
5. Until you have established a relationship of respect from your students, pushing them too hard academically will only make them resent you. Once you have created a productive, learning environment, you can assess your class to determine how hard they can be pushed academically.
6. Logical consequences are a good way to handle discipline. Special Connections features an article on Natural and Logical Consequences But, I also gave them chances to earn their way back from upcoming consequences of they worked quietly or did their homework during lunch.
7. To make your classroom a place where students show respect requires a firm attitude of “you are not going to win this power game” on the part of the teacher. The culture of disrespect is a challenge to all teachers. However, it is important to remember that it is present everywhere, not just in the schools.
I asked one teacher how she handled the tough students she had in her classroom that year. She said, “I just don’t let their behavior bother me. I hold them accountable for their actions. When they complain about having to endure the logical consequences of their actions, I just say, ‘You made me do it’.” Conscience Discipline is a method being used in some schools to teach students how to think through their behavior.
8. Observe other teachers during conference times. Don’t just stay in the classroom.
9. Read about current issues in education. Subscribe to the teacher focused Phi Delta Kappan magazine or use the internet to find free articles.
10. Join a teacher union. The American Federation of Teachers does not allow administrators to join. The Association of Teachers and Professional Educators is also a good teacher union which provides free legal advice.