I'm finally on the other side of the Big Desk in a high school classroom, yet I still feel like somewhat of a fraud in including myself in this space for teachers. After day one out in the field, I went home more wide-eyed than when I first walked through the door that morning. But then again, it was hard to open my eyes at all in the wee hours of 7 in the morning. Some things about high school never change.
So, to be real, I'm not a teacher... maybe one day. For now, I'm still a student - a college student learning how to be a good teacher in an Oakland high school. Props to Mr. G for giving me this opportunity to rub elbows with high school students twice my stature and tenfold my own in life experiences.
Anyway, as would any decent college student, I scribbled a few notes about the students, the school day, and - aha! - the teacher, with the vague intention of stowing them away somewhere in case they come in handy one day. Again, no promises yet on the teacher thing. We'll see how the next semester goes. The following are a few lessons which I acquired by the end of my first day on the job.
Lesson #1: Anything can be said with a smile.
...and should be, for that matter. When teaching even the most difficult of concepts, it is helpful to continue the lesson as though there is nowhere else you'd rather be than standing right there in front of the class, lecturing about systems of equations. When answering questions, your delight will encourage students to keep 'em coming. When disciplining a student for their behavior, one subtle smile can let the class know that you still have control over the situation, that you have not lost your cool. Smile when they walk in the door. Smile when the seemingly never-ending class period is finally over. I'm telling you, your eager grin can work wonders. But then again, I suppose it depends on whether or not you have an attractive smile.
Lesson #2: Pay attention to the time.
Mr. G. has a stopwatch in his classroom that couldn't be worth more if it was made of its weight in gold. Sticking to your time schedule in the span of one class period will help ensure that those lost 10-15 minutes here and there every week won't avalanche and sneak up behind you at the end of the semester. Your day-to-day goals should be realistic, yet optimistic. When dealing with small margins of error, it's better to overestimate the reaches of your students than to underestimate.
Lesson #3: Teaching is kind of like juggling, walking the tight rope, and taming lions... all at once.
One kid is asleep in the corner, two are arguing in loud whispers over some pre-pubescent concern, one boy decided that his novel about Vampires is more interesting than the lecture, and only three students show any indication of keeping up with the lesson. Oh, and the telephone just started ringing. Welcome to a teacher's workday, where teaching the actual curriculum requires only about 15%* of your effort. While it may be impossible to cover all bases in the classroom, it's your job to try. In the end... well, I don't know. You may not win 'em all, but even the smallest of victories are worth a pat on the back.
I think I shall end there for now... That's not to say that in 6 hours of interacting with a hundred-some students and one teacher amounted to three measly paragraphs of a blog post. Stay tuned. I'll be back.
*Fun fact: 90% of generalizations are made up on the spot. Gotcha :)
Image Source: Nogwater under Creative Commons