Sunday, August 7, 2011

Fortune Cookies for Teachers: 25 Ideas Every Teacher Should Keep in Mind

As another new school year gets under way, I have had some pre-service teacher friends, and fresh new teachers, who have asked me for advice as they start their first teaching position. I was able to sum up all the great advice that I have been given over the years from countless teacher colleagues, mentors, and other professionals. The following are my top 25 best pieces of advice for any teacher, but especially for new teachers:

  1. Keep teaching and learning the main thing, because that is the main thing
  2. Be flexible - in everything - if your child were a student in your classroom, how would you want them treated?
  3. A snack/protein bar is NOT a meal; plus, it's basically just sugar anyway
  4. Stay grounded in reality - you may not reach every student in the same way, or even in a meaningful way, but you should still try
  5. Stay in the loop with popular culture - staying current helps keep you in-touch with your students so you know what is important to them in their world - then, make content relevant!
  6. If you coach a sport, remember which job (relatively speaking) is your $4,000/yr job and which is your $40,000/yr job
  7. Problem-based learning and project-based learning are not just headings in your education textbooks
  8. Teacher-centered instruction is so 1953...
  9. Dress professionally - always (don't do jeans day for the first year) - and dress to impress
  10. Learn everyone's names and use them often, staff and students alike
  11. "The good ones will always have a job" - so make sure you are one of the good ones
  12. Use technology like it's going out of style (because it might be before you know it) - Twitter for the classroom and for life
  13. Make and carry business cards for yourself with basic contact information on there - you never know when you might need that
  14. If you're email address is iluvjustinbieber19@yahoo.com, or contains a number that rhymes with airline, CHANGE IT NOW! (firstname.lastname@gmail.com is a great idea!)
  15. Be less helpful - don't spoonfeed students; do more student-centered/inquiry-based instruction
  16. Make a single item portfolio, or shortfolio, with your resume, references, contact information and a title page with some pictures of you doing good teaching stuff on it. This should be a 11" x 17" 4-page booklet.
  17. Make all your professional stuff available on the web somewhere - so it can be easily accessed by anyone online (then you can put a shortened custom URL on your business card)
  18. Don't fall victim to the curriculum checklist philosophy of teaching where you do things just to say "I covered that" or you checked it off your 'to teach' list - teach for understanding!
  19. Be a team player
  20. Plan your learning goals ahead of time - backward design
  21. Get enough sleep - seriously, don't stay up until 1:00am doing grading or something (plan ahead)
  22. Make your teaching practices and decisions transparent to students - letting them (and parents) in on why you do things the way you do them makes for more reflective and metacognitive students
  23. Invite administrators, colleagues, parents and others into your classrooms to see what you are doing - then impress the heck out of them
  24. Important Fable #1: The Grasshopper and the Ant - be the ant people, be the ant!
  25. Important Fable #2: The Tortoise and the Hare - this one goes back to #18: which one will you be?

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