Monthly Archives: March 2014

Advice for New Teachers


Advice for New TeachersWhere I live it is spring, finally.  Over the past couple of days I have had a bird (the same bird) fly into my window over and over again.  I’m not exaggerating when I say this bird has flung itself against my window hundreds of times.  I thought certain it would die from its efforts yesterday.  This morning it started again.  I sought the advice of friends and one told me to place paper over the window.   I’m hoping that helps.  I suppose the bird sees the reflection of a tree or himself  in the window.  But seriously, you’d think after maybe fifty slams the bird would learn.

However, the teacher in me noticed a parallel between that battering bird and the young college students I observe as they do their practice teaching in a real classrooms for the first time.  Again and again I hear them say the same things.

When I notice that a few of these fledgling teachers call on the same students to answer all the questions they pose in front of the classroom, I ask them why they don’t ever call on students who don’t have their hands raised.  They pause and say, “Oh, I don’t want to put them on the spot if they don’t know. I don’t want them to think I’m picking on them.”

My answer is always the same.

If you use a more random way to ask for answers, no one will believe you are putting them on the spot.  Pull names from out of a jar or use a  computer program that mixes the names randomly.   Whoever’s name appears will need to be ready to answer.  Using that strategy you will automatically engage more students.  They know before you even begin teaching that they will need to listen. 

You also are saying, “I know you can learn the material.  I believe in your ability to learn.”  More students will listen.  More students will learn.  More students will be engaged in the learning process.  You aren’t putting anyone on the spot.  You are saying “I believe that everyone in this classroom has the ability and the right to learn this material.”  If they are slow to answer, give them the time to think it through.  Experienced teachers call this “wait time.”  Encourage and assist them.  You only put students on the spot when you ridicule them if they don’t know the answer.  Teach them.  Walk them through the steps with no condescension.   Allow no other students to make impolite comments.  If you do this routinely they won’t automatically disengage when you begin to teach.

And while I’m still perched up here on the side of my nest looking down on my fledglings, let me address another common error in thinking.  (Lest you think I’m lecturing, remember I speak from experience.  I happened to have made ALL these same mistakes myself.  I have the stories to prove it and I share them openly).

If you have a behavior management system in place, use it.  If you don’t have a behavior management system in place, get one!

“Oh, but I feel bad making them switch their green light to red, or have them put a check next to their name, or worse,  serve a detention!”  I hear my baby birdie teachers say all the time.

Guess what?  Even preschool-age students can quickly size up a teacher who is fearful of enforcing consequences.  And when they do, you… are… toast.  They then will do anything and everything to force you to set limits.  They will push and push and push until you blow a gasket or collapse.  The faster you enforce a consequence, the faster your entire class will come under control.  Students will be learning instead of inventing ways to stir the pot just to get you to react.  Your classroom will be safer and more learning will occur.  Enforce the consequences early, fairly and without anger,  and the situation won’t ever spiral out of control.   

Side note:  Since I taped paper over my windows this morning the bird has stopped ramming them.

Negative Action + Consequence = New Result

Sorry.  I’m a teacher.  I see a lesson in every event.  It’s a disease of the profession.

I wonder what my neighbors think of my new window treatments?  I’m a recent widow and they probably think I’m afraid of peeping toms.  🙂  Only my blogger friends will know the truth.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

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When Did This Happen?


When did this happen?

The shift has been gradual but upsetting all the same.  No longer are teachers automatically respected for their commitment to young people. When I was a beginning teacher the community assumed that teachers deserved respect for entering a profession committed to helping their children grow toward success.  Parents supported the teacher’s decisions.  If a kid was in trouble at school, the kid was in more trouble at home.  Parents supported the schools.  They assumed that behavior guidelines were in the best interest of their child and the classroom at large.

I understand that respect must be earned.  There is a very small percentage of teachers whose names we see in the media, who clearly deserve no respect.  These situations make me heartsick and even furious.  I am angry that those few sully the reputation of a profession that I revere.

But beyond the few who never should have been allowed into the profession, the vast majority of teachers are incredibly hard-working and selfless.  They will do anything to help a child succeed.

Yet somehow it has become so fashionable to speak out against teachers and schools that it has turned into an acceptable parade of negative comments.  You hear it everywhere.  Politicians, media members, community leaders, and parents sitting on the sidelines at school functions have joined the band of negativity.  Trashing teachers has somehow become politically correct.

During my last decade of full-time teaching I taught high school students in a Teacher Academy program.  This was a wonderful group of students who already had identified a passion for teaching even in their teen years.  They were a pleasure to teach and mentor.  They were such positive role models within our high school. Their enthusiasm for helping others using the teaching profession just bubbled over.  Lauren was one of those enthusiasts.  Most of them are young full-time teachers now.  But many of the stories they share with me sadden me.

Listen in as I share one.  A couple of weekends ago I ran into Lauren at a gymnastics meet.  She is currently teaching second grade.  During the week that I ran into her she had stayed late for Parent Teacher conference night.  A father of one of her students had screamed and screamed at her during the “conference.”

“You’re a fool!” he screamed.  After several minutes of this she finally told him he would have to call the Principal and set up another appointment if he wanted to continue the conference with her.  He continued to yell so she left her classroom in fear.  As she walked down the hallway he followed her screaming.   She went into the first empty classroom she could find, stepped inside, closed the door and leaned against the door.  She was afraid to go to her car without an escort that night when the conferences ended.  She had just purchased her first home in this community.  She was afraid to drive straight home to her house for fear that he might be following her.  The next day the school was on “lock down” worried that he might return to school and do harm to her or children.

What made this father so angry?  His son didn’t follow classroom behavior guidelines and his teacher took away a privilege.  Is there any surprise that the child had trouble following behavior guidelines?  What was the consequence for the father?  The police security officer called him on the phone the next day and the dad apologized to the officer.  End of story.

Now a young lady who is such an asset to the teaching profession and her students, is left wondering if she wants to remain in the profession.  When did it become OK to follow a teacher down the hallway yelling at her?  When did it become socially acceptable to bad mouth teachers in the community?

My close friend has a daughter who entered the teaching profession within the past five years.  People now come up to my friend and criticize schools and teachers.  She is surprised at how they seek her out to say something negative about the education system.  But I’m not.

Teachers have become targets.  Somehow we’ve got to turn that around.   Trashing teachers doesn’t fix anything.  It just drives some of the very best people away from a worthy profession and the students who need them so much.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from the author:

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Contact Dauna Easley to speak to your group: